In case you had any doubt that retail petroleum operators are in a race to secure the hearts and minds of the Canadian public, set those doubts aside. A recently opened Ultramar station in Vaughan, Ont., shows what ingenuity and a commitment to customer delight can produce, even when space is at a premium.
Sometimes known as the “City North of Toronto,” the burgeoning hub of Vaughan is a beehive of activity. Located close to both the 400 and the 407 Highway, it’s become a tiny slice of heaven for those who idolize a bedroom community that’s also a short drive from the heart of the action.
People here are constantly on the go, so a one-stop shop where commuters can refuel, grab a healthy meal and pick up a few items for the household is an inspired idea.
“[We] strategically built in the heart of Vaughan, surrounded by residential, employment and education sectors,” says Chris Mitchell, director, real estate and development for Parkland Fuel Corporation, who further adds that the site is perfectly situated to capture daytime and evening traffic. Parked on the northwest corner of Rutherford Road and Keele Street, this Ultramar station is roughly three kilometres from a pair of local tourist attractions, Canada’s Wonderland and Vaughan Mills Shopping Centre. It’s also only a 15-minute drive from York University, where some 40,000 students are busy either taking or skipping classes.
Interestingly, this particular Ultramar is also situated right next to a Dairy Queen Grill & Chill location. Across the road, there’s both a Starbucks and a Subway. Just up the road, there’s Burger King, Tim Hortons/Wendy’s, as well as a KFC and a Mary Brown’s Chicken. Within a stone’s throw: a Petro-Canada station, a Shell and a Husky/Esso.
In other words, it’s a crowded market in and around the intersection of Rutherford and Keele: plenty of consumers, plenty of competition. But believe it or not, this was part of the appeal for the team at Parkland. “We wanted to provide the consumer an offer outside the market share holders [in retail petroleum],” says Mitchell. “We also wanted to create a one-stop shop to compete with offers such as Tim Hortons/Wendy’s [and the rest].”
This station enters the fray with a clean overall design with clearly visible driveways and a pair of entrances for pedestrians walking in from the intersection. The landscaping is almost garden-like and the newly updated On the Run store resembles a large Muskoka cottage in its design. The pumps are logically placed to allow for easy traffic movement. All of this required a huge amount of effort because the location is encroached on all sides.
“[We worked] with the City to accommodate a larger c-store space without increasing the footprint of the building,” says Mitchell. “[We removed] the enclosed garage bins and built a Molokai system that provides a modern, effective and well-designed waste collection point which is safe and convenient to use. We utilized every square inch to provide customers with a one-stop shop offer.”
Of course, there’s also a secret weapon that Parkland brought to this particular battle—not a 007, but a Triple O’s.
This legendary hamburger chain is a spin-off of White Spot Hospitality, the longest-running restaurant chain in the county. Up until last year, Triple O’s could only be found in British Columbia, Alberta and parts of Asia. In March 2021, the first Triple O’’s opened in Ontario and the company announced plans to open a total of 30 locations by 2026.
A year prior, Parkland Fuel Corporation announced a multi-year agreement to expand its longstanding relationship with Triple O’s restaurants. In that announcement, Ian White, Parkland’s then-SVP of strategic marketing and innovations, spoke to the importance of the agreement: “As part of our organic growth strategy, our goal is to include a high-quality food offering in every new and retrofitted On the Run convenience store.”
At the Ultramar on the corner of Rutherford and Keele, the Triple O’s may be a scaled down version of their typical standalone restaurant, but it still offers plenty. “The Vaughan design features Triple O’s most popular items in a reduced footprint,” says Mitchell. “Take-out, drive-thru and a dine-in counter are available.” The world-renowned burger with a pickle oil top can also be ordered through the Triple O’s mobile app or delivery services such as DoorDash and SkipTheDishes.
While this new location seems fully sorted already, Mitchell maintains that there is some room left to add new features, including potential EV charging stations. For Parkland, it’s all about delighting customers—now and in the future.
“[The] ability to provide all-around services with customers is key,” says Mitchell. “[To] offer convenience items, breakfast, lunch and dinner, fuel for the internal combustion engine and charging stations for the EV driver at one stop is the future.”