By Sara Counihan
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—The Spinx Company, headquartered in Greenville, South Carolina, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and the amount of change in the c-store industry since Spinx was founded in 1972 is nearly unfathomable.
In 1972 at 26 years old, Stewart Spinks took a leap of faith and quit his job at a Shell station to buy his first service station in Greenville. The station had three pumps, and one of them was a self-service pump, which was a brand-new concept at the time.
“There is no way to buy gasoline in this South Carolina market but have somebody else pump it,” said Spinks, founder and chairman of Spinx. “Customers loved it and so that was the beginning of my transition.”
Spinks opened his first convenience store in 1976, another new concept at the time. Before the early 1980s, service stations were just that—stations to service your car with little convenience item offerings for purchase if any.
“In a matter of a decade it was completely flipped,” said Spinx.
By 1978, he also purchased and ran a heating oil business but decided to sell it and use the funds to propel his convenience store business. That same year, The Spinx Company Inc. was officially established, and the Spinx logo was registered that same year.
In 1979, Spinx introduced the “Fueling Point Concept” to its customers, something that was common in Europe where urban land was at a premium but had not gained traction in the U.S.
“I found it to be favored by my customers because of the convenience of all petrol offerings at one fueling point. There was no need to shop the pump islands for your preferred fuel type,” said Spinks.
Over the next four decades, Spinks continued to innovate and was not afraid to try new technologies. In the ’80s, ATMs, pay at the pump and Spinx’s iconic fried chicken were introduced. The ’90s saw major store growth and the introduction of franchises and foodservice. In 2013, the company introduced electric vehicle charging and a loyalty program. In December 2021, Spinx reopened its Orangeburg, S.C., location to include a Tesla Supercharger station with eight Supercharger stalls, plus an expanded full-service kitchen and diesel truck lanes.
Looking toward the future of the convenience industry, Spinks sees foodservice continuing to be an opportunity for c-stores to capture customers, but in order to keep them, convenience retailers need to figure out to-go and the dinner daypart, says Spinks.
“This is an opportunity for us to win because the pandemic has adjusted people’s buying to the point where you know what the guest wants, and the customer is willing [to order to-go],” said Spinks. “The driver here is that customers are able to take over their own time and can say ‘I’m only going to be at Spinks the amount of time I want to be there.’”
Spinks also sees opportunities in self-checkout, diesel and electric charging.
Spinks says that if you introduce a new concept to your customers, and it’s not a smashing success right away, that’s OK and not to give up on the innovation so soon.
“Sometimes you have to be patient and wait on the customer to accept the new concept.”
Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Daily and NACS Magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.