By Erin Del Conte, Senior Editor
PEMM Inc.’s Quicklee’s Convenience Stores, a 14-store chain in upstate New York, has its eye on expansion, is aggressively remodeling its fleet of stores and recently debuted a new 11,500-square-foot travel center complete with two c-stores, amenities for professional drivers and a food court.
Avon, N.Y.-based Quicklee’s launched in 1995 when Peter Bruckel saw a parcel of land available next to his bridge-painting company’s office, near an interstate highway in Avon, N.Y. He knew the property would make an ideal location for a gas station, and decided to purchase the land, start PEMM LLC, build a store and try his hand at the convenience store business—all in short order.
Today, Bruckel runs several businesses. In addition to the industrial bridge-painting company and c-store business, he runs adult care facilities and a senior apartment complex. Bruckel and his four children are all owners and some of his children work in various areas of the business. On the c-store side, Bruckel’s son-in-law, Ken Perelli, serves as vice president.
A few years after the Avon, N.Y. site opened, Bruckel built a second c-store in Geneseo, N.Y., about five miles outside of Avon. Over the next two years he built a station in Webster, N.Y. and Henrietta, N.Y. Then, he began to acquire stores—three, in 2010, five in 2013 and so on, bringing the chain to the 14 locations it has today.
TRAVEL CENTER EXPANSION
Twenty-two years after the Avon location was constructed, Quicklee’s did a raze-and-rebuild, turning the original location into a travel center. The new Avon, N.Y. truckstop opened in June of 2017, following a 14-month planning process from concept to approval. Construction began in September 2016.
“We were seeing increased truck traffic along Highway 390, and more trucks parked in rest stops and on the side of the road,” said Perelli. “We owned 20 existing acres behind the gas station and saw an opportunity to build a bigger travel facility that would accommodate professional drivers, as well as our local business clientele.”
The previous Quicklee’s spanned 2.5 acres with a 3,500-square-foot c-store featuring a Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as a separate car wash. “We tore down the 3,500-square-foot building and its existing gas canopy, which had five pumps total,” Perelli said.
Quicklee’s expanded the property by an additional six acres, constructing a new, 11,500-square-foot building. The forecourt includes six diesel, non-ethanol pumps and six high-speed diesel and DEF (diesel exhaust fluid) dispensers out back. The car wash remained, and the chain added a 7,500-square-foot truck maintenance building and a CAT scale.
By converting the property to a travel center, Quicklee’s was able to offer its local community a bigger, all-inclusive c-store.
“In the main building area we have two convenience stores—each about 2,500 square feet. One has traditional convenience items. Then we have a truck-specific convenience store. We still have Dunkin’ Donuts and we have a New York-style deli called Calabresella’s,” Perelli said.
Calabresella’s serves both hot and cold foods, including wraps, pasta and potato salads, specialty Italian sodas, and also sells meats and cheeses by the pound.
DESIGNING FOR SUCCESS
Quicklee’s looked to long-time design partner Dfab, based in Michigan, to create the design elements for the new travel stop.
Quicklee’s first partnered with Dfab four years ago when it was first rolling out the Quicklee’s banner.
While its gas is almost exclusively branded Mobil, for its first 18 years, Quicklee’s didn’t have a c-store brand. When it introduced the Quicklee’s name in 2013, Dfab developed the branded design elements, carrying Quicklee’s “clock ticker” logo into the store via wallpaper, wall stenciling and window decals that give the appearance of etched glass.
Dfab also created the chain’s color palette with blues and greens from the logo mixed with white and grays, and an elm wood featured prominently throughout the store. It also built the chain’s catch phrase, “fast, clean, friendly,” into the design.
Since then, Quicklee’s has been actively remodeling all of its locations to the new design. When the opportunity to revamp its original site into a travel center appeared, it turned to Dfab to help carry that design into the travel center.
“If you imagine the building being broken up into thirds, the left side features a traditional c-store with a Dunkin’ Donuts. The middle third is actually a food court with seating for 50, and the right side features the Calabresella’s and the truck-stop convenience store. The far side of the truck stop features a laundry facility, changing area, four private showers and restrooms with heated floors,” Perelli said. The site can easily accommodate 100 guests within a few minutes.
The food court features a proprietary food area called the “Chill and Fill,” as well as a fireplace, a large screen TV, leather chairs and sofas. Food options include a soda fountain, a soup bar, a pizza station, chicken dinner, chicken fingers, pretzel rolls, corn dogs, hot dogs, mashed potatoes and mac n cheese. Grab-and-go options also abound, including salads, puddings, string cheese and cold-cut sandwiches.
Quicklee’s went to Dfab with a blank slate on the food court design. “They built in lighting elements, hanging elements, cabinets, counter tops, floor tile, wall décor, wallpaper, signage, way finding,” Perelli said. Drum lights of various sizes feature the chain’s blue-and- green color scheme and hang from the food court’s 16-foot ceiling. All interior lights are LED. Wood beams jut from the ceiling and walls for added flare.
While drivers eat, they can enjoy a 20-foot by 16-foot three-dimensional mural Dfab created using a collage of historical photos from the four neighboring communities taken during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
“Avon was known for its locomotive, and this was a travel destination for the steamers. It’s also next to Conesus Lake, which used to have large steam ferry boats,” he said. Both the ferry and locomotive are featured prominently in the mural.
Quicklee’s also partnered with a Rochester, N.Y.-based digital sign company, Empire Digital to created a touchscreen display of the mural photos, so customers can learn the history behind each photo.
On the c-store side, signs made of porous corrugated steel announce each cooler section, with LEDs backlighting the wall behind each sign. “You get like a perforated lighting coming through the cooler signage which is a really neat element,” Perelli said.
Quicklee’s brings foodservice into its locations via eight Dunkin’ Donuts, and a local pizza chain, Mozzeroni, at one location. It is currently working with a new food chain to roll out Mexican food to some of its smaller locations.
Quicklee’s implemented a loyalty program in November hosted and designed by Points to Partners and is working with brand specialist company, Archer Communication, to create a website at quicklees.com, as well as develop the chain’s social media presence.
Six stores have been reimaged thus far using Dfab’s design, and Quicklee’s is continuing to roll out the design to all locations. Meanwhile, it’s prepared to grow in store count too.
Quicklee’s is currently considering two pieces of raw land for ground-up builds, and is looking at small chain acquisitions. The chain is currently under contract to acquire three locations in the new year.
“We’ll have 17 locations by mid-January,” Perelli said. “I would like to be at 20 locations by the end of 2018, ideally.” •