Hail Creek Travel Center’s opening was jeopardized by COVID-19, but the store’s team rose to the occasion with help from SSCS.

Note: This is part one of a two-part feature on SSCS customer, Hail Creek Travel Center. Please find part one here.

Hail Creek Travel Center in Taos, New Mexico, opened its doors in June 2020. The 3,500 square foot convenience store, built fresh from the ground up, marked the culmination of months of work for the Pueblo People and the professionals assisting them, dating back to 2019.

Not only was the store a labor of love, but it would add to the cultural richness of the area with its design, a definite upgrade from the old school smoke shop it was set to replace.

There was a complication, though, a rather large one: COVID-19.

Building a business from scratch is a major undertaking for anyone, but social adjustments like sheltering in place and requiring physical distance made construction and related preparations challenging. It’s not the environment one envisions when planning to build a store.

But Hail Creek Travel Center was determined to prevail.

“We’d reached the point of no return and were pretty motivated to figure out how to keep things going,“ says Jennifer Welty, the store’s GM at the time. “We just had to be extremely careful about how we went about doing it.”

The details of the procedures Hail Creek observed during the run-up to their successful launch could fill a few blog posts, so let’s focus on what we personally experienced: handling the technology part of things.

The SSCS sales rep handling the account explains it this way: “We were contacted by the store who expressed interest and we did what we usually do, an in-depth online demo that worked as well during COVID as it does during normal times.

“What really helped was the degree of familiarity store team members demonstrated regarding the advantages of software running a business. It helped get us out of the gate pretty fast—there was a fundamental layer of education that we didn’t have to spend time on.”

Though Hail Creek was Welty’s first real c-store to oversee, she had spent decades working for tribal organizations, mostly in casino operations. “The basic advantages of computerization were pretty apparent, because I had seen it in action when I managed other tribal enterprises, and our IT Director shared a similar perspective. Accurate counting and control over what you’re selling translates across businesses, even before you computerize. Same for pricing. We felt that computerization would codify, strengthen, and refine what were pretty solid practices already, making the operation even better. What we saw from the SSCS software definitely fit with our plans. It wasn’t intimidating at all.”

Because of COVID-19, in an exception to standard policy, SSCS provided guidance and training remotely, with additional training scheduled when social conventions returned to normal.

“SSCS always emphasizes in-person training and installation, and for good reason since its the best way to create synergy with the store and the people they do business with,” adds our Sales Rep. “But Hail Creek had gotten to a critical point in their opening, so we made a decision to help get them operational, even though we couldn’t visit or have them come out to headquarters for five-day training right away. We didn’t see another option.”

Welty didn’t doubt SSCS could pull it off. “From the demonstrations we had, it was pretty clear that the system had the information and reporting that we needed, along with countless other features. But honestly, if you wanted to list the reasons why we went with SSCS, the confidence I had in their team and their rep is definitely at the top.

“I knew enough about how computerization would impact our business to know he understood our needs and was dealing with us in no-nonsense terms. We had the assurance that there was going to be a real, human sales and support team behind us every step of the way. And that turned out to be true. While we’re interested in shoring up our training, we haven’t missed a beat since we’ve opened and business is good, thanks in large part to SSCS.”

Congratulations to Hail Creek Travel Center for their perseverance during COVID, and the opening of their beautiful store. It’s an example of how adaptability is the key to long-standing success, something SSCS understands as well as anybody as it moves forward into the future.

This is a typical Pueblo dwelling in Taos Pueblo, New Mexico, an inspiration for the c-store’s design.