Canyon Ferry Mini Basket had an impressive ten-year run of success before computerizing. Then business really took off.

In Part 1 of this SSCS customer profile, we read about how Canyon Ferry Mini-Basket of East Helena, Montana, tapped into its “hybrid” market of locals and vacationers to create a successful c-store business. But here’s something you may not know: the store’s first run of success was accomplished without the benefit of a computerized management system/back office.

The store’s outstanding performance during its “manual” phase is a testimony to the effectiveness of the hands-on, “treat others as you would like to be treated” philosophy that owners Rob and Traci Merzlak have practiced since buying the business in 2007. But by 2017, with a major expansion taking hold of the store, it was time to add a little technology into the mix.

“I’d been on the fence about computerizing for a few years, but after our expansion, with our store’s increase in stock and the variety of items we were carrying, it felt like the time was right,” Rob says. “So we started looking into it.”

Purchasing a computer system upon which your whole business depends isn’t a trivial proposition, and Rob and Traci took more than a year to make a decision. Fortuitously enough, at about the same time a regional wholesaler approached SSCS sales representatives at an area trade show to tell them about this dynamo of a petroleum retailer in East Helena that hadn’t yet computerized. The rest, as they say, is history.

Rob was most interested in the control that SSCS’s flagship back office system, the Computerized Daily Book (CDB), would give him over the increased complexity of his item pricing. He knew from his experience managing a large drug store that wholesalers often used different pricing matrixes for different stores, often based on size.

“I thought it was kind of an injustice that a small store like ours wouldn’t get the same deals as the bigger guys, but it was difficult and time-consuming to gather the materials to effectively negotiate when we were tracking everything manually,” Rob explains. “With the SSCS system, I could see current pricing trends. There was detailed reporting, documented in a really clear way if I needed to show vendors things I didn’t think were right.

“It also gave me a way to see how these agreements worked out over time. There were other benefits, too. The software made it easy for me to stay on top of the discounts owed me—things you sometimes miss manually. It made it easy to compare the prices on delivery invoices to what was in the system; fuel invoicing, too. Now it’s hard to see now how we could operate profitably any other way.”

Though going from no computer system to one that touches every part of their business might seem a lot to take on, Rob and his team found it easy to adapt. For one thing, the store was already so well-managed that they didn’t bat an eye at the business disciplines required to get the full benefit of a computer—it aligned with and supported the effective processes and procedures Canyon Ferry Mini-Basket already had in place.

Rob also gained confidence in the transition to technology just by seeing the way SSCS handled its business prior to and during the installation in his store, as well as the personal approach to getting things done afterward that makes SSCS unique in the industry.

“If anything comes up I just talk to a real live human being at the SSCS Support desk,” he adds. “It’s not a hassle at all, and everybody I talk to is always friendly and helpful. Once I computerized, I never looked back. I really feel that SSCS is there to back me up.”

SSCS congratulates Canyon Ferry Mini-Basket on its long-standing success, and looks forward to being a long-term part of the operation’s undoubtedly bright future. This is an independent operator to be reckoned with.