2022 has been a big year for Terrible’s. The Las Vegas-based chain began the year with a major rebranding initiative, changing its chain name from Terrible Herbst to Terrible’s, complete with a new logo and fresh signage for the convenience stores.
Now, Terrible’s is taking on technology, rolling out its new Terrible’s+ loyalty program, piloting self-checkout and expanding into delivery. At the same time, Terrible’s is looking to take its “deliberately different” programs to customers in new market areas as it plots an aggressive growth strategy in Las Vegas and beyond.
Today, Terrible’s operates 176 stores across Nevada, California, Arizona and Utah, with around 80% of the stores located in southern Nevada.
The decision to rebrand was inspired by the chain’s core customers.
“The customers out there, they say, ‘I’m going to the Terrible’s on the corner.’ They never really said ‘Terrible Herbst,’” said Bryan Breeden, vice president of advertising and marketing for Terrible’s. “Really being cognizant of our community and the fact that they call us Terrible’s, we decided to take a step back and reevaluate our overall branding from an organizational standpoint and go from Terrible Herbst over to Terrible’s.”
Terrible’s made the decision to rebrand in 2021 and began the process in Q1 of 2022. The rebrand included updates to the store facades, fresh signage inside and out, new uniforms that feature the Terrible’s logo, and a revamped marketing look and feel that incorporates the red, white and blue color scheme of the Terrible’s logo. Today, all legacy stores have been officially converted to the Terrible’s banner name.
Terrible’s can trace its roots to 1938, when Founder Ed Herbst opened his first Herbst Oil gas station in Chicago. Over the years, Ed Herbst continued to expand the business, branching out West and eventually moving into the Las Vegas market.
“Ed Herbst is very competitive, and he would run extremely aggressive retails versus his competition as well as doing different types of promotions like free pony rides when you would get fuel,” said Breeden. “Once he overheard one of his competitors in the state of Wyoming mention, ‘Oh, that Mr. Herbst is terrible, how he comes into new markets and tries to run aggressive retails and undercuts his competition.’ When he caught wind of that, he never really did much with it. But his son, Jerry Herbst always left that in the back of his mind.”
When Jerry Herbst took over the company in 1959 in Las Vegas, he paid homage to his father by incorporating the chain under the name Terrible Herbst Inc. The first c-store under the Terrible Herbst banner was built that same year in Las Vegas.
In the years that followed, the company grew mostly via new-to-industry builds.
“The Herbst family has always wanted to put their own spin on things, including their own architecture and footprint, and has believed in that process over these last 60-plus years here in southern Nevada,” Breeden said.
About 15% of the locations came from acquisitions. Most recently, Terrible’s acquired Get N Go, an eight-store chain, in May and Pit Stop, a seven-store chain, in January — both in the Las Vegas market.
Jerry Herbst passed away in late 2018, and today, his son Tim Herbst helms the company as president. Tim’s brothers, Troy Herbst and Ed Herbst, are both active in the company as board members.
“Some of their children today (the fourth generation) are even starting to get their feet wet in the business,” Breeden noted.
Terrible’s stores range in size.
“We have everything from our nostalgic pumper stores that have been open since the 1960s — we have two of them that are literally just a kiosk and fuel pumps; all the way up to the world’s largest Chevron that is in Jean, Nev., which is 50,000 square feet with 96 fuel pumps; and everything in between,” Breeden explained.
It operates a total of eight travel stores on highway corridors leading into and out of Las Vegas that measure 12,000 square feet and up.
Terrible’s latest store prototype design began rolling out five years ago and averages 4,500 square feet. The design features a rectangular footprint with an industrial, modern look and feel that includes concrete flooring, lots of windows and high open ceilings with exposed air ducts painted bright red. The color scheme includes red, white and blue, with red as the dominant color. The walls around the grab-and-go and fountain areas feature red tile.
Each store includes a wall wrap that represents the community in which it is located. The Las Vegas stores, for example, include a nostalgic, black-and-white Vegas-themed wall wrap.
Given that Las Vegas is known for its lavish casinos and as the gambling capital of the U.S., Terrible’s Nevada-based stores appeal to tourists and local guests alike with gaming sections.
“We call them Ms. Terrible’s Slot Corners,” Breeden said.
The slot corner consists of a carved-out nook with various gaming machines inside. “It’s a staple that you would see in all of our stores here in southern Nevada,” he noted.
Terrible’s stores are also known for flying an American flag out front, a tradition that Jerry Herbst established back in the 1950s.
“We fly a flag everywhere that we’re allowed to,” Breeden said. “I think we have about 150 of our 170-plus stores currently that fly an American flag outside.”
Some of them are flown atop poles that are up to 100 feet tall.
“That’s something that a lot of people recognize our stores from,” he said. “They see the American flag and immediately know that there’s a Terrible’s on that corner.”
Most Terrible’s locations are branded Chevron, which ties in well with the chain’s red, white and blue logo.
Terrible’s forecourts are clean, modern and feature big, bright lots.
“We have bright lighting and very nice landscaping that includes palm trees. It’s very different landscaping and a different look and feel than what you would normally see at convenience stores throughout Las Vegas,” Breeden said.
Customers can access electric vehicle charging at a number of Terrible’s locations, including at its travel stores in Jean, Nev., and Indian Springs, Nev., and throughout the Las Vegas valley.
“The (Nevada) Governor’s Office of Energy wanted to build an electric highway that stems across from northern to southern Nevada,” he said.
Terrible’s has been a part of the electric highway initiative from the beginning.
“We are expanding upon our EV charging, and we are placing that in a lot of the newer locations that we’re building today,” he said.
Following the acquisitions of Get N Go and Pit Stop earlier this year, Terrible’s is in the middle of remodeling the 15 sites to fit the Terrible’s brand. The chain is also embarking on a full remodel of some of its older locations to keep them fresh and up-to-date design-wise.
Terrible’s recently finished construction on two ground-up builds. One, located in north Las Vegas, is set to open this October. The other is a travel store, about an hour north of Las Vegas in Moapa Valley, that opened at the end of September.
Food & Tech
Terrible’s offers typical c-store fare, including roller grills and prepackaged grab-and-go sandwiches. It also provides fresh doughnuts every day through a partnership with Krispy Kreme.
Currently, the chain is testing bean-to-cup coffee equipment at about 20 locations to gauge the community response. “It’s working very well right now,” Breeden said. “I think our expectation is to really move forward fully with that in the near future and trying to get that at all locations.”
Terrible’s offers delivery, which it calls ‘Terribles2U,’ through third-party delivery platform Grubhub.
“We are currently slated with expansion plans for that to extend really across all of the other delivery platforms in the start of 2023, including Uber Eats, DoorDash and Instacart,” Breeden said.
It’s also exploring order-ahead and pickup opportunities for the future. “We’re not there yet, but we do have plans to launch that for sure,” he said.
While the chain sees big opportunity with delivery, foodservice isn’t a major focus for the chain, given the realities of the Las Vegas market.
“Every intersection has four fast food restaurants and four bars that are all offering $4.99 steak and eggs,” he explained.
Technology, however, is a big priority. Terrible’s offers its Terrible’s Social House app, which has more than 130,000 members. Within the app, Terrible’s kicked off its new loyalty program, Terrible’s+, on July 1.
“It’s currently in-store specific and will continue to expand on the levels of loyalty you can earn,” Breeden said. “What I mean by that is it’s going to eventually be out at the gas pumps. It’s going to be out at our car washes and then some of our other on-premise entities that we own as well. The goal is to really expand it to a nice 360 (degree) loyalty program that touches all of our entities within the organization.”
The loyalty program allows guests to earn points in a touchless way. Customers simply scan their phone at the register during the transaction to gain points for purchases.
“You can redeem those points for C-Store Cash, and that C-Store Cash can then be redeemed for anything within the store (except for lottery),” Breeden said.
Terrible’s opted to reward customers with C-Store Cash because it didn’t want to restrict or dictate how they redeem their loyalty points, and offering C-Store Cash gives shoppers total control over redemption selections.
“Expanding our loyalty is a very large priority for us,” Breeden added. “The expansion of our app and the expansion of the Terrible’s+ loyalty program are key for us to continue to give back to our loyal customers.”
Technology continues to be at the forefront of Terrible’s plans moving forward.
“We understand the world is moving in a more digitized fashion,” he added. “And our goal is to try to stay ahead of that and make sure we’re offering the best products that we can. Whether it be Terrible’s+, or the app, or Terribles2U with the white-labeling third-party delivery portions. Those are really big priorities for us right now.”
Like many c-store chains today, Terrible’s is also testing self-checkout.
“We currently have it in five different locations, and we’re obviously watching that very closely for potential future expansion,” Breeden said.
“What differentiates Terrible’s is it’s still a family-owned and -operated chain with deep roots in southern Nevada and a passion for giving back to the communities where it serves,” Breeden said.
Its commitment to what it calls, “deliberately different programming” also sets Terrible’s apart from the competition.
“We never want to forget our roots,” Breeden said. “A part of who we are and a part of where we’ve been, even back to 1938 Chicago, is offering deliberately different programs that you really don’t see anywhere, not just in Las Vegas, but across the country.”
Terrible’s may have differentiated itself with pony rides in the 1940s, but today, it’s offering a wide range of special services to its customer base from basic conveniences to fun promotions.
Many of its travel centers feature pet relief areas to accommodate guests traveling with their four-legged companions. Inside, stores provide fresh beef jerky that customers can bag themselves and big walk-in beer caves. In 2022, the chain added Amazon lockers at 50 locations to make it more convenient for customers to receive their Amazon deliveries.
It also operates more than 70 Terrible’s car washes, most of which are co-located with a convenience store. The car washes are a 50/50 split between touch-free washes and tunnel washes.
Through Terrible’s #TerribleArt program it utilizes different in-store partnerships and a local artist to create eye-catching murals on the walls of some stores.
The company runs a variety of programs to support the local community. It offers a Game Day Giveaway promotion, where it gives away a $1,000 shopping spree to one lucky contestant when a local sports partner plays a game. Customers scan their Terrible’s Social House app at the store to gain entries into the sweepstakes. It’s ‘Shop, Spin & Win’ promotion gives away up to 40,000 free products a month. To play, customers must make a $9 qualifying purchase in-store and then spin the wheel on the app for potential prizes.
The chain’s ‘Pump and Pour’ program gives away a free product for any gas purchase. Customers that spend any amount on fuel activate the Pump and Pour screen at the pump, which allows them to select an offer — such as a free product, a buy-one-get-one deal or a dollar-off coupon — and bring it inside to redeem it. Through Pump and Pour, Terrible’s awards customers about 100,000 free products each month.
“We really feel that the community sees these types of programs that we do and appreciates them,” he said. “Being deliberately different is
definitely what we try to be every day.”
Southern Nevada remains a fast-growing community, where Terrible’s is looking to expand, especially on the highways into and out of the region, which the chain sees as untapped potential that will allow it to better serve the commuters driving to and from Las Vegas.
“Our mission is to provide high-quality retail products, entertainment, hospitality and a deliberately different experience to every customer at a fair price,” Breeden said.
Terrible’s is set to bring that mission to new market areas as well, as it plans to aggressively build and acquire stores over the next five years.
“We are looking at opportunities where we can potentially expand our brand and bring Terrible’s to other areas and other communities,” Breeden said. “We are obviously always looking at other markets that we can step into and continue to build a brand presence in other areas. … If there is a need for convenience stores and gas stations, our eyes are open to looking at that need and potential growth in the future.”