An Inside Look at How an Eclipse Affects C-Stores

Don Rhoads, former NACS Chairman, talks about his 2017 experience.

April 01, 2024

In 2017, a total solar eclipse occurred, beginning in Oregon and making its way across the country. Another total solar eclipse hits the United States next week, on April 8, beginning in Texas and finishing in Maine.

Don Rhoads, owner of Washington-based The Convenience Group and former NACS Chairman, experienced the 2017 eclipse himself. His stores, even though they were outside the path of totality, experienced a surge in traffic as people traveled toward Oregon—Rhoads himself made the trek south to witness the astronomical event.

“Our stores are located in southwest Washington. And we weren’t in the path of totality, but leading up to the actual eclipse itself we were really busy,” Rhoads told NACS Daily. “The spillover effect of the eclipse really did boost our store sales.”

Rhoads had fun with the eclipse, leaning into the event and working with suppliers to offer specialty items. “We started working with our suppliers about a month earlier on a theme,” he said. “We ran some cool promotions that were eclipse related … A lot of packaged beverages, including an eclipse craft beer, were popular choices.”

Rhoads set out for Oregon a couple of days before the actual eclipse. He described the drive down as chaos. “At least 500,000 people came in to see the event, and these towns did a really good job of preparing, but you only have so much infrastructure for that number of cars.”

One of the things he experienced on the trip was stop-and-go traffic for 20 miles, which he noted “burns a lot of fuel.”

“If you wanted to stop in a store along the way, there were long lines, and the shelves were picked over,” Rhoads told NACS Daily. “Packaged beverages and salty snacks were big items for these stores. Numerous items were just wiped out.”

Rhoads ended up watching the eclipse from Cresent Moon Ranch, an alpaca farm in Oregon that opened up for cars to park in and view the eclipse.

“The actual eclipse itself is crazy. There was two minutes where it was completely dark. It is eerie. You can feel the temperature drop as the eclipse moves forward. When it reaches totality, it’s like night. The birds stopped chirping and began to roost. Other animals started to go to sleep,” he recounted.

The 2024 eclipse is the last chance for many Americans to witness a total solar eclipse. The next eclipse scheduled to pass over North America will occur in 2044, but will only impact three states: Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

For more on the upcoming eclipse, check out “Total Eclipse of the Mart” in the March 2024 issue of NACS Magazine. Additionally, Convenience Matters discussed the role c-stores will play during the once-in-a-lifetime event on a recent podcast episode.