The marriage of a c-store to its community is a wonderful thing.

SSCS’s hometown of Salinas is at the heart of California agriculture, but the same holds true for the little towns that dot Highway 101 going toward L.A. If you say “Monterey County” most think of coastal glamor and high-end golf resorts, but the fact of the matter is the county is largely rural, much of it given over to farming.

King City exemplifies “South County,” full of fertile fields and open lands that encourage exploration and recreation. Not much more than an hour’s drive from Carmel-by-the-Sea, the city of just over 14,000 grew up next to the Salinas River where the first European land exploration set up camp on September 26, 1769.

Those explorers came in on what today is Jolon Rd, and if you drive south on it, two miles from King City you’ll pass through the rural, unincorporated haven of Pine Canyon. The peaceful hamlet makes even sleepy King City seem like a bustling metropolis. Many in the community feel the same way, which plays right into the strengths of SSCS convenience store customer, Pine Canyon Store.

“We’re really more of a general store than a convenience store, because the residents of Pine Canyon like to avoid going into town if they need only a few things,” explains owner Larry Hayes. “As a result we carry items like auto products, pet food, flour and sugar, and fresh, local produce, things our customers have come to expect from us.”

If Pine Canyon Store, which is Chevron branded, seems attuned to its area and customer base, it probably starts with the fact that Larry’s father, Scotty, started in the local retail petroleum industry in the early 60’s, purchasing the store on the current property in the early 70’s. In 1989, the Central Coast business took a giant leap by constructing a completely new building on the present site.

Larry didn’t plan to enter the family business at first. Though he always worked at gas stations growing up, not necessarily his father’s, he ended up going to college and, after that, became a Navy pilot, continuing as a contract pilot after his service was over. “I was generally aware of what was going on the industry,” Larry adds, “but it wasn’t like I was studying it.”

In 2020, however, life threw the Hayes family a couple of curves. COVID put an end to Larry’s overseas contracts. Scotty, now 86, had become too ill to continue operating the business. “I made the decision to buy him out and turn my full attention to the store,” he says. “While there were no huge surprises when I started, the amount of fine-tuning that you could do and needed to do to make a profit in your operation was higher than before. It was really good to have SSCS Software in place to open up that detail and give me the ability to get on top of it.”

Over time, Larry has continued to increase his market presence by building his commitment to the surrounding community. He does it in a way that is fairly unique, gives back at the same time, and helped generate Pine Canyon Store’s tagline, “A Gift for You.”

We tell you all about it in Part 2.