Amid challenges including a global pandemic, Dandy Mini Marts is not only moving forward but innovating on the daily — opening new stores, adding a loyalty program and app, and continuously updating its foodservice offering.
All the while, the chain is staying true to its core values as a family-owned and operated c-store. For all this and more, CStore Decisions is recognizing Dandy Mini Marts as a Chain to Watch.
“Dandy has been in this business a long time, and we’ve continued to grow and innovate throughout the years,” said Marketing Director Bill Bustin.
Founded in 1983 with the opening of its first store in Covington, Pa., the c-store chain now operates 65 locations in the Twin Tiers region of Pennsylvania and New York.
Among its values, the company works to ensure customers receive prompt, friendly and courteous service, while providing quality products at a fair price in safe, clean and convenient locations.
Dandy also gives back to its communities through philanthropy programs, ranging from local Little League sponsorships and Girl Scout cookie tables at its stores to annual campaigns.
The Dandy Canes campaign, for example, has raised more than half a million dollars over the past 15 years for more than 100 local organizations during the holiday season. And Dandy’s Pink Cups campaign, which takes place each October, has raised more than $50,000 for the Guthrie Clinic Breast Care Fund.
“Our customers know that Dandy is here for them, and we’re proud to be a member of their communities,” said Bustin.
Classic Meets Modern
Dandy operates a variety of stores across the region, from small, rural communities, to major interstate highways, next to shopping centers, and near colleges and universities.
At just over 5,500 square feet, Dandy’s current generation of stores maintains a balance between classic convenience and modern quick-serve restaurant (QSR), said Bustin.
“We certainly have design principles we maintain throughout multiple generations of builds, but we are always flexible to how our stores fit within the communities they are located in,” he said. “Consistency is valuable, but we’re not applying a ‘one-size-fits-all’ (approach) every time.”
The Dandy in Wysox, Pa., is a prime example.
Originally built by Victor Piollet in 1872, the building was in the Piollet family until the late 1930s but changed hands several times, most recently operating as a general store. Dandy recognized an opportunity to restore the historic building, and in October 2019, the company celebrated the completed historic revitalization with a community grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony.
As part of the redesign, Dandy constructed an addition to the original building that now holds most of the new c-store, including its kitchen, coolers and shelves. The beer cave, seating area, store offices and restrooms are located in the original Piollet Mansion.
Dandy worked to preserve elements of the original mansion, from restoring the original doorway moldings, exposing more original interior brick and adding new walls with original exterior brick.
But the Wysox Dandy is just one example of Dandy’s design innovation.
“With almost 40 years of c-store industry experience, we’ve honed in on a spacious store footprint that packs in 28 cooler doors, large hot and cold beverage bars, kiosk-ordering stations, dine-in seating, a full kitchen and other amenities, all within an open and inviting atmosphere,” said Bustin. “The finishing touches on both the interior and exterior make a bold statement and showcase our brand’s potential as we look forward to future expansion and store refreshes.”
Its newly opened store in Elmira, N.Y., also features Dandy’s largest parking lot and fueling area, with 20 pumps and a variety of fueling options, including E85 and E15 flex fuels.
“This Dandy is one of only a few locations offering flex fuel in the entire region,” said Bustin. “We also offer compressed natural gas (CNG) at our Dandy in North Towanda, Pa., and a stand-alone CNG station in Sayre, Pa.”
Along with its design, Dandy has also been working to update its foodservice, adding new flavors and styles to keep pace with consumer trends, such as breakfast wraps, loaded fries and Dandy’s new Chicky Bisky — a fried chicken filet on a homestyle biscuit with honey and hot sauce.
“We’re always looking to innovate — whether that’s new products on the shelves and in the coolers, or brand-new Dandy menu items that come from our foodservice team’s test kitchen,” said Bustin.
Select locations, such as its new store in Elmira, N.Y., offer freshly ground, bean-to-cup coffee, along with other features like a flat-top grill for burgers and cheesesteaks and an extended line of specialty coffee drinks including lattes, macchiatos and chai, along with cold-brew coffee, fruit smoothies and milkshakes.
Dandy has also increased its number of beer caves and beer offerings to include hard seltzers and local craft beers, for example. And it’s piloted alcoholic, ‘Adult Slushies’ at one store in Athens, Pa., which has seen “super strong” results, Bustin said.
The menu also includes an array of c-store classics, ranging from subs, burgers, pizza, chicken, roller grill and more. And every quarter, the chain features a few different menu items as part of its Dandy Value Deals, so there’s always a low-cost, high-quality option available for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
“Our hand-pressed Dandy pizza is one of our customer favorites, along with our Dandy Deli line of subs, wraps and sandwiches,” said Bustin. “Cheesesteaks are always a big hit, and although we’re a few hours north of Philadelphia, our cheesesteaks are made with products from the Original Philly Cheesesteak Co. And of course, our regulars always come back for our Dandy coffee every morning.”
Dandy’s regulars will be happy to hear that, this month, the c-store chain is launching a new loyalty program, Dandy Stache Rewards + Pay, which features a new mobile app along with physical cards and key tags.
Customers will be able to to earn and redeem points for free Dandy menu items, products from the shelves and coolers, as well as prizes. They’ll also save on fuel when using Dandy Stache Pay, and be able to pay for their in-store purchases using the app.
Part of what makes Dandy a Chain to Watch is its high standards, from foodservice to technology and more, said Bustin. And these standards start from
“Our leadership team avoids complacency at all costs, and that filters down throughout all of our functional teams, field ops teams, and store managers and associates,” he said. “When a new campaign or initiative is launched, it’s ‘pedal to the metal’ until we’ve executed to our Level 10 standard.”
The “pedal to the metal” approach has proved effective in all areas of Dandy’s business, including its response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From the start, Dandy increased its cleaning frequency in-store and at the pumps, closed its dining areas and added extensive signage encouraging social distancing, hand-washing and mask-wearing.
Like the industry as a whole, it’s been a challenging time for Dandy, Bustin said, made more complicated by its geography.
“We have the added challenge of operating in both Pennsylvania and New York, so we are dealing with two separate sets of guidelines,” said Bustin. “That can get confusing for customers, specifically for the stores we have directly on the Pennsylvania/New York border.”
He said the credit goes to Dandy’s employees, who have been the driving force to keep its stores clean and communicate its new operations to customers.
“Our amazing store managers, associates and field operations teams are taking the COVID-19 operational challenges in stride.” CSD