Offering the market a fresh take on convenience stores, Bakersfield, Calif.-based Samco Food Store is building its brand with new locations and a bold look, giving the local community a destination, not just a convenient spot for a quick bite.
Samco operates 10 company-owned locations in the Bakersfield area, with one new location currently under construction and two new sites planned for 2023.
Samco got its start in 1991 when Sam Jouda, CEO and co-founder of Samco, purchased Greenacres Market, a c-store complete with gas and liquor located at Rosedale Highway and Calloway Drive.
“I moved from overseas (Syria) to the U.S. in 1989. The rest of the immediate family came two years later. I worked for a friend in the business with the goal to learn and grow our own brand,” said Jouda.
The family worked together to run Greenacres Market, with Jouda overseeing the day-to-day business and his siblings working outside of school hours. Jouda’s father also visited the store daily.
With the arrival of more family members, the store count continued to grow. “We now have adjusted into a more corporate structure,” said Jouda.
Jouda works with his brother, Wisam, who serves as vice president, operations manager and co-founder of Samco.
“We love working with our family members, cousins and close friends on a daily basis with the goal of making Samco the best stores in Kern County,” said Jouda.
Rebranding to Samco
After learning the business with Greenacres Market, the family decided the Samco brand would allow them to expand their footprint.
“The name Samco came from the brothers’ names Hosam and Wisam,” said Jouda. “It means Sam’s company.”
The first Samco site was purchased in 2006 on California Ave. and began as a conventional store, with a liquor license later added. Its store operations modeled that of Greenacres Market.
With the first Samco site up and running, the family looked to grow and acquired two more sites over the next three years.
“We continue to learn the business and grow together as a family each day,” said Jouda.
The original Greenacres Market site was relinquished in 2007, as the city took part of the land for road widening, and it was decided that the gas lease would not be renewed.
Samco has also built two new-to-industry locations. The first Samco location built from the ground up is located on Buena Vista Road. The process of opening the new Buena Vista Road location during the pandemic proved difficult. It was affected by issues with labor and equipment and permit delays, but finally opened to the public January 2022.
“Our dedication to the process and perseverance helped us maintain the course, and (by) working with a great support group (such as Paragon Solutions and Blackburn Construction), we were able to get it done,” Jouda commented.
The chain’s second ground-up build is currently under construction at South Fairfax Road and East Brundage Lane and set to be completed in about six months. The process has also faced challenges in today’s difficult climate, with delays such as PG&E poles that had to be repositioned, equipment shortages and labor issues.
Samco’s new-to-industry sites will average 5,300 square feet.
Samco’s goal is to bring something different to the Bakersfield market with a fresh concept and new offerings — to give its customers more.
Bold, Visible, Unique
Samco partnered with Paragon Solutions to design its stores with a modern feel and open concept in mind. The sites feature bold graphics and visible colors, particularly blue, yellow and red, along with lime green accents.
The beer cave is situated along one wall, which features a golden yellow color peppered with circle graphics. It currently stocks local breweries, including Kern River Brewery, Temblor Brewery and Lengthwise Brewery.
In addition to the beer cave, Samco stocks Cinnabon bean-to-cup coffee, with regular, decaf and dark roast options. It also boasts eight Icee products, six Slush products and a fresh-blend fruit smoothie machine. The fountain area includes 20 different flavors.
A significant portion of the store is designated to its Cinnabon and Carvel offerings, which comprise fresh baked goods and ice cream — with real dairy — selections, respectively. With a natural beige color scheme for the area, the spot maintains the look and feel of a café and bakery. It has signage to indicate where the line starts and digital menu boards.
“The Cinnabon and Carvel area gives you a bakery feel. The c-store area feels open and shoppable. The coolers are stocked with many varieties of drinks, with the beer cave capping it off at the end,” explained Jouda.
Samco decided to add Cinnabon and Carvel to its concept because it was looking to expand its fast-food footprint.
“We looked around and thought that the Cinnabon and Carvel brands were needed in the area,” Jouda said.
Samco contacted Cinnabon’s representative, Dan Pawlak, who looked at the new sites, saw the operations and helped the chain become a franchisee. “He was very helpful and provided support and information throughout the process,” Jouda added.
Capitalizing on the bold and colorful theme of the store, Samco’s proprietary Yumi candy zone displays an array of candy against a rainbow backdrop. Here, customers, both adults and children, can fill a cup from the offerings in multiple bins and pay a set price for the cup.
At multiple sites, Samco is offering its proprietary Yumi chicken brand. Samco also offers Yumi Fresh, a proprietary concept that consists of fresh sandwiches and subs it distributes to every site from its five Yumi Kitchen concepts in-store.
Samco plans to expand its Yumi Kitchen concept with future sites, including Yumi Chicken, Yumi Fresh and the Yumi candy zone.
In addition to Samco’s in-store offerings, it has café seating next to the Cinnabon and Carvel area. There are also two dedicated children’s tables and high chair seating at a counter along the window area.
Samco is open to all, including pet owners. At a few of its current sites, it features dog parks.
In the forecourt, Samco has eight dispensers with 16 fueling positions and diesel availability.
In terms of technology, Samco sites are EMV compliant, and it has plans to install touch payments on its dispensers as they are released in the market.
It offers online ordering and delivery through DoorDash and Uber Eats.
Future and Community Connection
As it looks to the future, Samco has its eye on growth. After Samco opens its South Fairfax Road location, it will turn its sights to preparing two newly acquired stores — a Mobil station and a Shell station — that are a year or two away from being operational.
As they are smaller units, Samco is looking to see how well they do in the market.
No two stores look exactly the same, and after Samco finishes cleaning the new sites, it will reach out for design options for each site.
“We are always looking to purchase sites in (the) California area if it is a good fit,” said Jouda.
Samco also plans to continue its involvement with the community. In the past, it has donated to local youth baseball and flag football programs. It also sponsors teams and gives them snacks and drinks.
“The Ronald McDonald program is where we collect donations from customers who purchase a balloon,” said Jouda. “We also do the muscular dystrophy program where the customers can donate and buy a shamrock.”
In further efforts to connect with the community, Samco works with autistic adults through a local program. They can start an internship with the chain and, after a year, they can earn a position. Currently, Samco is working with two interns.