Ohio-based FriendShip Stores is celebrating its expansion into the Columbus, Ohio, market with the grand opening of the Lewis Center FriendShip Kitchen in Delaware from July 15-29.
Located along SR 23 South, at 45 Coal Bend Road, the kick-off also commemorates the Ohio-based company’s 70 years of operation since its founding. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held July 16, with local dignitaries, including members of the fire and police departments.
The company was established in 1950 as Beck Suppliers Inc. to distribute fuel and lubricants to local farmers and businesses and launched its first convenience store in 1986 under the FriendShip banner. In 2018, the company unveiled its next-generation, FriendShip Kitchen concept, and began rebranding existing stores and building new ones to offer restaurant-quality food, convenience and fuel in a modern upscale retail environment.
FriendShip Kitchen now accounts for nine of the company’s 27 stores along the shores of Lake Erie, from Toledo to Cleveland. The Delaware store marks the first foray into Central Ohio. Despite its rapid growth, FriendShip still adheres to the values established by founder Virgil Beck: “Honest products, friendly service, at a fair price.”
“We have evolved from our early beginnings as a gas station and convenience store that also sells food, to a welcoming environment that offers delicious food and great customer service as our primary objectives, yet continues to provide fuel and other convenient and staple products,” said Brian Beck, co-owner and SVP of FriendShip. “We operate, as always, under the guiding principle of treating customers like guests in our homes. We are extremely proud to be an Ohio company, employing more than 400 of our fellow Ohioans. Our family has owned and operated the company for the past 70 years — with the fourth generation of Becks being prepared to lead the company for years to come — and we are especially excited to expand into a new community in Columbus.”
FriendShip Stores, like the rest of the country, is very sensitive to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Deemed essential by Governor DeWine, we have never closed our doors,” said Greg Ehrlich, president of Beck Suppliers, “believing that many customers are more comfortable shopping in one of our spacious, clean stores with an average dwell time of three to five minutes, rather than in a large supermarket which has greater traffic and customers typically shop for about 30 minutes. At the same time, we have taken significant measures to protect our employees – we haven’t laid off a single one.”
Early in the crisis, FriendShip took the precautions advised by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other health organizations. Employees continue to be armed with protective gear, have increased cleaning and sanitizing efforts, and are separated from customers with plexi-glass partitions. Floor markings remind customers to practice social distancing, self-serve bagging stations have been added, and customers are provided with hand sanitizer stations. In addition, store hosts have been receiving ‘FriendShip Cares’ bonus pay since the beginning of April for proudly serving their guests, communities and country during this challenging time.
That’s why, in the midst of all the challenges that businesses across the country continue to face, FriendShip is gratified that its expansion continues, and eager to share its growth with this new community. Special events and promotions with deals and giveaways mark the company’s entry into this market. Guests can register for drawings to win free gas or free FriendShip Famous Chicken dinners for a year. Free breakfast sandwiches will be provided for the first 100 visitors each day from July 15-17, and FriendShip’s award-winning coffee and fountain beverages are free to all guests from July 15-29.
FriendShip is sticking to its expansion plans and committed to continued growth in the Columbus market. Additional properties have already been purchased in the area, with plans for new stores within the next two years.
“FriendShip isn’t just the name of our stores. We live, work and play in the towns and cities in which we operate, and we genuinely care about people. As a fourth-generation, Ohio-based business, we feel a special obligation to give back and are committed to being constructive partners in the communities we serve,” said Dean Beck, co-owner and SVP of Beck Branded Fuels noted. “Over the past five years, we have raised and donated over two million dollars for schools, sports teams and charities like the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) and Make-A-Wish Foundation.”