Andy Ghaith and his father, David, run a successful triple-threat site in Scarborough, ON. Never ones to rest on their laurels, they’re putting the finishing touches on a major renovation that will put a big focus on a new aspect of their business: the convenience store.
“We just renovated the store, which is about 400 sq. ft. We went from being a kiosk around 120 sq. ft., so now it’s a reasonable size,” says the younger Ghaith. This store sits on a lot about an acre in size, along with the nine-bay Maple Leaf coin car wash and Pioneer gas pumps.
“Before, we had a contract with Pioneer for the gasoline, but now our store becomes a Snack Express. We’ll be offering the Bonus Bucks loyalty program for the in-store products, and it’s the best program, in my opinion. You get five cents on every dollar you spend on in-store purchases.”
Ghaith says the project officially started in August of 2014, and has spanned a longer period of time because they decided to stay open during the entire renovation, to keep their loyal customers coming through the door.
It was also by no means a small undertaking, considering how outdated the site was when Ghaith’s father purchased it back in 2004.
“It was a big project. It’s easier to build from scratch than it is to renovate something that’s incredibly old, because you have to bring a lot of things that are grandfathered in up to modern standards,” explains Ghaith.
Fresh new offer
Ghaith and his father hired a contractor and undertook the project on their own, but are getting help on the merchandising end from Pioneer, who will help bring in a lottery machine and branded coolers. They’re also looking to start a coffee program and provide seating to give their site a bit of a coffee shop feel.
Ghaith says they’re going bigger on the convenience side, because that’s where the margins are. Gas draws customers to their site, but it’s the in-store experience that holds the secret to success.
“People want to come for the gas, but when they see you have more, that’s when you’ll start to build a relationship with that customer,” he says. “That’s the most important thing. If the customer feels like the store fits them, then they become a return customer. And regulars are where you make most of your business – people who come in every day and spend a few bucks here and there.”
Keeping up with the competition
Site renovations aren’t anything new to the Ghaiths, who’ve been working on their site since those early days just over a decade ago.
“From 2004 to 2010, my father spent a lot of money renovating the car wash to bring it up to standard. At the time, we were the only car wash in the area. And then it started getting busy, and we started getting car washes popping up around us. So it kind of propels you to keep up with the industry, so you offer the same quality wash the competition does,” explains Ghaith.
“It’s a coin car wash that was built in the 1970s, and when we bought it, it looked like it was built in the 1970s. We upgraded the motors, the tanks, we got a water filtration system, and we organized all the piping in the back because it was a mess.”
All of these renovations have been made with one major aim in mind: to keep their customers happy, and give them a reason to come back. So far, Ghaith says, it’s definitely working.
“We’ve become a hub in our area; we know pretty much the entire neighbourhood. Because with that area in Scarborough, even though it is in Toronto, you still get that community feel. We have customers coming in and building relationships with us, and when we go out in the neighbourhood, people know us. I love it.”
4 ways to find triple-threat success:
1. Get with the times. Upgrade your site to modern standards to help compete with any new sites that pop up in your area.
2. Step up your convenience game. Attract repeat customers and boost margins with an inviting in-store environment featuring destination categories like coffee and lottery.
3. Offer incentives. Establish a loyalty program with the right rewards to keep your customers coming back.
4. Become a community hub. Build relationships with your customers and neighbours to help establish your role in the community.