By Sara Counihan
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Convenience stores have been likened to quick-service restaurants that happen to sell gasoline, but what about a brewery that also sells fuel? Chicagoland PRIDE Stores say yes, please.
Parent Petroleum is a wholesale fuel and lubricant distributor in the Chicagoland market, distributing all major brands including BP, Shell, Mobile, Citgo and Marathon, and it has a convenience store side called PRIDE Stores with 15 locations in Chicagoland and one on the way in Indiana.
“We always joked around [about] how cool would it be if we brewed our own beer. We have a really great selection of craft beer at our convenience stores … And then we started thinking a little bit more serious about it,” said Mario Spina, owner and CEO of Parent Petroleum, on this week’s Convenience Matters podcast episode.
At the PRIDE Stores’ 5,000-square-foot location in St. Charles, Illinois, Parent Petroleum built a foodservice concept called Urban Counter and then its own liquor store called PRIDE Beer and Wine Plus Spirits, and the company left 1,000 square foot in case one of those offerings needed to expand. But then the idea of a brewery came to mind. They weren’t sure if one could fit in the tight space, but it worked.
“I’m not going to say there haven’t been challenges,” said Spina. “You got new things that pop up that you didn’t even imagine, but it’s been a lot of fun.”
Along with offering freshly brewed beers, the PRIDE Stores have a mean foodservice game as well. The brand has three food concepts: Urban Counter, Taco Urbano and PRIDE Café.
“We wanted to have a couple different food concepts so that if someone’s traveling and they see multiple PRIDE Stores or two stores are close to each other, then they can experience different food offerings at each one,” said Spina.
Urban Counter offers American fare from half-pound, hand-pressed hamburgers with house-made bacon jam to made-to-order salads.
Taco Urbano serves Mexican food, and all food items are made to order.
“It’s actually pretty cool when you order chips—we fry them up fresh, we hand churn the guac, make the guacamole to order. We cut up the avocados and make it to order,” said Spina.
PRIDE Cafés went into the convenience stores that didn’t have the infrastructure to support a full-service kitchen. Offerings include paninis, crepes and espresso drinks, and most of the cafés have TCBY frozen yogurt.
The company also has a commissary at its Warrenville facility where much of the prep for some of the restaurants happens. All of its grab-and-go sandwiches are made there, and the company self-distributes them out of the warehouse.
“Our slogan is, ‘Not your typical convenience store.’ We try to take that to heart,” said Spina. “[We] want a unique experience for [customers] where they can see things they’re not going to see at a convenience store. You might see it at a really nice liquor store, you might see it at a really nice freestanding, quick-service restaurant. But you’re not going to see that all under one roof. That’s what we try to do for all of our locations that have the PRIDE flag.”
Listen to this week’s podcast episode No. 330 “Brewing Innovation at PRIDE Stores” to find out how certain aspects of Starbucks inspired Spina and the PRIDE Stores, what their bourbon barrel picks are all about and more about why PRIDE Stores aren’t your typical convenience stores.
Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 300 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at www.conveniencematters.com. Episodes have been downloaded more than 250,000 times by listeners around the world.
Head over to Ideas to Go to watch the video featuring Parent Petroleum and get a behind-the-scenes look at the innovation happening at PRIDE Stores.
Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Daily and NACS Magazine. Contact her at [email protected].