PRIDE In an Innovative Industry

The PRIDE Stores’ Mario Spina explains how the c-store chain is tackling trending customer experiences.

By David Bennett, Senior Editor

More convenience retailers are implementing innovative solutions to connect with the busy consumer, including chains that don’t have huge geographic footprints. The PRIDE Stores can be counted among those c-stores embracing technological trends fostered by a healthy economy, more customized foodservice offerings and tailored customer experiences.

Mario Spina.
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Convenience Store Decisions (CSD) recently caught up with Mario Spina, owner and CEO of St. Charles, Ill.-based Parent Petroleum Co., which includes the 12-store PRIDE chain, to explain how a changing industry is playing to its strengths.

CSD: A recent study showed 82% of smartphone users consult their phones in the store while deciding what to buy. Do you think the convenience industry is responsive enough to this dynamic?
Mario Spina (MP): No, not at this time—especially when you consider the limited amount of point-of-sale systems available to our industry, which causes a lack of initiative on their end to keep up with the technological advancements by other retail sectors.

CSD: Merging online and physical store experiences is becoming prominent in the c-store industry. How has The PRIDE Stores approached this trend?
MP: Through our restaurant offerings—Urban Counter and Taco Urbano—we have signed up with UberEats to provide online ordering plus delivery. We are also starting work for online ordering and delivery at our liquor store. If this system goes well, we hope to use it as a basis for expanding the online ordering of convenience items.

CSD: Do you see such technology complementing overall customer service or is it chipping away at the personal approach to the business?
MP: I believe quality customer service is extremely important, but any form of technological complement that allows transaction times to be quicker would help the overall customer experience greatly.

CSD: What are you most excited about in 2019 as it pertains to Parent Petroleum and PRIDE?
MP: We have several initiatives scheduled for 2019. Among them are:
• Opening of The PRIDE of Naperville.
• Opening of The PRIDE of Palatine.
• Opening of 93 Octane Brewery.
• Rolling out our new Loyalty Programs (PRIDE Points and The PRIDE Carwash Club).
• Moving into our new lubricants warehouse in Aurora, Ill.

CSD: Can you provide a snapshot of how the new loyalty programs work?
MP: We are calling The PRIDE Points program ‘Easy as 1, 2, 3.’ Customers earn one point for every dollar spent on fuel; two points for every dollar spent in store, including club programs like coffee, fountain, espresso, etc., and three points for specific items such as milk, bread, beer, wine, spirits, PRIDE Fresh Food, PRIDE restaurants and more. Every 500 points earns $5 off the next purchase, so it’s an easy and straightforward loyalty program for our customers to enjoy.

CSD: The PRIDE of Naperville is a special addition. What makes it unique and how did the development project come about?
MP: This will be our first new to industry (NTI) build since 1999, which was our PRIDE of Lake County Store that was built by my father, Peter Spina, who passed away over five years ago. Through our real estate division, where we buy, sell and lease real estate, we have been directly involved in the development of this site from the beginning. To have this store be the first NTI for Amoco throughout the U.S. since the brand was released by BP is a great honor.

CSD: There’s a buzz about 93 Octane Brewery. What’s the story behind this concept?
MP: One of our stores, The PRIDE of St. Charles, was a great location, but had a smaller footprint with no possibility to expand. Therefore, we purchased the property directly to the west and built a 5,000-square-foot building, housing our Urban Counter Restaurant and our first liquor store—The PRIDE Beer and Wine plus Spirits.

We still had 1,000 square feet left and one option that made the most sense was a brewery. We can produce our own beer that can be carried exclusively at our PRIDE locations, which would be another differentiator in the marketplace, plus we have a tasting room for up to six different beers on draft. We thought the name and logo, 93 Octane, was a fun play on our roots.