It’s not uncommon for young New Brunswickers to leave their hometowns for work, but Lindsay Butland knew she wanted to put down roots in her Riverside-Albert village and provide a service for her local community. That’s why she bought Crooked Creek Convenience almost four years ago, when she was only 23, and she hasn’t looked back since.
“I saw an opportunity for it in the village, because there weren’t any locally owned convenience stores. I think small businesses are good for small areas; it’s convenient,” says Butland. She asked the previous owner if he was willing to sell, and then got her financing in order, with the help of her mother, who runs Crooked Creek Adventures from the site.
The small size of the village means Butland and her two employees know their customers, and know how to meet their needs. Aside from top categories like coffee and lottery, Butland brings in local meat and seafood, but it’s the gluten-free products she stocks that really keep her clientele happy.
“You kind of know people on a personal level, too, and a lot of the people around here have to eat gluten-free products because they’re celiac,” explains Butland. “For a smaller area, there’s quite a few of us, and then as a celiac myself, I know that when I travel, it can be hard to find food you can eat.”
And, if there are other products her customers want, Butland doesn’t hesitate to get them on her shelves. “It’s not like a bigger box store – if somebody asks for something, I can get it within the week.”
This local advantage is important to Butland, who tries to give back however she can. “I got asked to put in a little free library beside the store, and there’s been a really good response. We do local fundraisers; where you see everyone in the community, it’s good to pass on words and show support for local organizations,” she says.
Delivering convenience … to everyone!
Butland strives to meet the needs of her community members, but with a site near the Hopewell Rocks and Fundy National Park, she also needs to be prepared to meet higher customer demand in July and August.
“We have tourist season for about eight weeks, and it’s pretty busy. We help tourists and give directions, because we’re located between two world destinations,” says Butland, who also recently renovated the washroom to make her site a more convenient place to stop.
While Butland has successfully honed in on what matters most to her community, she understands it’s a competitive market out there. But she says putting people first will always help you outshine the rest of the pack.
“As long as you have good customer service and make them feel welcome, people will come back. And don’t be scared to try new things, like bringing in new products,” says Butland.
“Ask advice from your customers about what they want to see, because it’s always changing,” she adds. “Taking feedback and using that to your advantage really helps.”
3 Ways you can bring your community together:
1. Take pride in your location. Build a business that you love, and communicate that strong connection to your shopping community so they always feel welcome.
2. Get to know your customers. Spend time talking to your customers to learn what products and services will provide the most convenient shopping experience.
3. Exercise agility. As your customers grow and change, your offer needs to follow suit. Bring in the products your customers want, and be ready to try something new.