Regional Food

The retail worlds of past and present often converge in a c-store.

Nostalgia . . . the past made present . . . who doesn’t have a hankering for the good old days once in a while? No matter when you grew up, the past has an allure that can be hard to ignore. It seems different, interesting, a little exotic.

And Inc. magazine notes that nostalgia will be a key branding trend this year.

The retail petroleum industry, in particular, is fertile ground for nostalgia, because it matured with the spread of the open road across the U.S., which carries its own powerful nostalgic pull. Long driving times created the need for fuel stations, and later, food and merchandising oases next to them. A proliferation of motor inns and motels also cropped up, many of which celebrate with their own fond look backwards. All of these developments are intertwined.

The ultimate example is Route 66, which runs from Chicago to Santa Monica. Once the Interstate Highway system turned it into a secondary route, Route 66 began a new life as a nostalgia magnet, one inseparable from its gas station roots.

There’s plenty of examples. Lambert 1957, a convenience store and gas station in Joliet, Illinois, taps into its market potential as the “oldest continuously operating gas station on Route 66.” Kingman Canada Mart touts its connection to the past with a retro-looking gas station and store that adds a mart with locally-made jewelry into the mix. And then there’s the Tower Station and U-Drop Inn, which is picturesque enough to star in movies.

It’s not just regions that align themselves with the past, either. Merchandise brands do the same thing. A recent example, OLIPOP, calls itself “a new kind of soda,” yet emphasizes the back-to-basics nature of the drinks with the tagline “pure nostalgia-ahh.” The result is a beverage that incorporates modern knowledge about prebiotics, botanicals, and combines it with an emphasis on the traditional. (Food Business News reports floral and nostalgic flavors as key beverage trends for 2024.)

Perhaps the most auspicious example of blending the old with the new is a merchandise brand that is indelibly mixed with its retail outlets: Stuckey’s. Travelers of a certain age in the south central and southeastern part of the country may remember legions of uniquely designed, blue roofed Stuckey’s stores lining highways. The retailer was more of a confectioner in the beginning, specializing in pecan rolls and other old fashioned candies wrapped in variations of the company’s red and yellow packaging.

More recently, though, the chain has been reborn with a stronger convenience store presence, while retaining a full menu of Stuckey’ branded specialty items. Stephanie Stuckey, the granddaughter of Stuckey’s founder, makes a point to emphasize up front the connection to the past in company-related media.

The same can be said of SSCS customer Flory’s, with four locations across New York’s Hudson Valley. The enterprise informs its website and promotional materials with a retro, Fifties-influenced style, “hosted” by a cartoon character whose design is based on the service station professional of yesteryear. It’s a symbol of the kind of family-owned business in which the Florys grew up, evident in the store’s outside appearance. Oh, and there is a bear’s head coming out of the wall at one store. For more details, readers can check out a post profiling Flory’s here.

At SSCS, we’re no stranger to the blending of past and present, although in our case, it’s far more than a nostalgia thing. Our nearly 45 years of providing software to the industry has seasoned us and provides a corridor of useful perspective for solving customer problems through technology.

On the other hand, we engage with our own customers frequently, and our support of such forward-thinking operators keeps us appraised of what they will need from our software as we move forward together. If you want to know more how our approach capitalizes on the best of the past and the promise of the future on behalf of SSCS Technology users, please give us a call at 800-727-9927. We have an affection for the past, but we also know the best is yet to come.