Blending Old and New to Create Market Distinction
Flory’s Convenience, Gas, & Deli serves up a leading edge C-store experience with a stylish, retro flair, creating a go-to destination for commuters and locals in New York’s Hudson Valley.
New York’s ten-county Hudson Valley isn’t far north of New York City, but looking at it you’d never know. Greenery, hills, streams, and lakes weave around and through quaint villages, picturesque hamlets, and bustling rivertowns. It’s mostly quiet here. Sleepy Hollow’s not that far away. The Catskill Mountains are close, too, though Rip Van Winkle is long gone and so, it seems, are the little men he saw playing ninepins.
Scattered throughout this serene, historic locale, in towns with names like Fishkill and Mahopac, are the quartet of C-stores owned by Jamy and Jerry Flory, and their mother, Prudy. Together with Senior Manager Everett Koret and Paul DiPalma, who oversees the enterprise’s back office, including the SSCS technology all four stores use, they form the core management team of Flory’s Convenience, Gas, & Deli. Their success lies in their ability to offer an in-store experience as memorable as the locale that surrounds it.
Jamy and Jerry grew up in the Hudson Valley. They got their start working as mechanics in a branded gas station owned by their parents. About 20 years ago, sensing the winds of change that were blowing through the industry, the brothers began to emphasize the acquisition and development of C-store properties.
“We started with a small store and progressed from there,” notes Jamy. “Over time, we began looking for the right opportunities; locations on main thoroughfares where we could buy our own real estate and build our own sites as long term investments. It’s no problem if we have to take down existing structures and replace them with new ones. Our first store in Mahopac was originally occupied by an antiques dealer. The Hopewell Junction property had a restaurant on it.”
Florys has established its own independent brand, so the business has the freedom to put together store concepts tailored to appeal to commuters and locals. The effort extends to marketing. The organization 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, a symbol of the kind of family-owned business in which the Florys grew up and a tribute to Jamy and Jerry’s father, also named Jerry.
This nod to the past stands in direct contrast to Flory’s leading edge C-store practices, which include the use of SSCS’s Computerized Daily Book back office software to control pricing and inventory across the enterprise. “We’ve come to rely on SSCS technology and can’t imagine how we would run the store without the information it provides,” Paul states. “We use it to make sure our profit margins are where they should be and make the necessary adjustments if they are not.”
Florys’ modern approach is also evident throughout the front of the store, the highlight of which is a varied and upscale Food Service program. The combination of traditional Americana with an inviting contemporary approach—colorful neon lights next to efficient LED lighting—has resonated with the markets in which the Florys do business.
All four stores feature a New York Style deli that is dead serious about being a New York Style deli and pulls it off. A steam table offers a daily rotation of three to six hot foods, the driver for the successful lunch program that the Florys offer to working people in the area, strengthening its bond with locals. The fried chicken is a popular selection. Freshly made breakfast sandwiches are a staple. There are ice cream machines, unusual candy dispensers, and special vending machines.
“We grew up here, so we felt pretty convinced that emphasizing our roots as a small, friendly place tied into its neighborhood would work,” adds Jerry. “The public sees us as a group of mom-and-pop stores even though our approach to the industry is as modern as it gets. Customers love that and they love the convenience. As a result, we’ve become not only a key stop for commuting professionals, but a neighborhood fixture. We try to be active in our communities outside of work and that helps, too.”
While every one of the Florys’ properties has a distinct personality, the flagship store in Fishkill—the site of a gas station that sat empty for years before the Florys bought it—is where the family’s personal vision for a C-store really comes together, starting with its eye-catching exterior, the first attraction a driver sees coming off the Interstate. The style is retro on a grand scale, as the images accompanying this article will attest.
“Running a family business has plenty of ups and downs, and working together on store design was definitely one of the ups,” Jamy says. “To complement the retro theme we already knew we liked, we put our heads together and came up with the tilted canopy. Jerry’s ideas are spread throughout the interior, which is full of eye catching elements you won’t find in just any C-store. Our extended family of management and staff also added their input. It was fun.
“In addition, it helped us appreciate the advantages of having our own brand in creating a unique destination with interesting offerings that people seek out. We got a lot of satisfaction watching the structure go up right before our eyes.”
The Florys fourth store, in East Fishkill, is a recent addition, and the plan is continue growing at a slow, but steady pace, adding a store every few years, if it has the right potential. “We’d rather have fewer sites doing bigger numbers, than fifty or a hundred sites that only pull in a fraction of the sales each,” Jamy says. “My brother and I are hands on when it comes to the business; we’re out in the stores all the time helping our managers and we don’t want to lose that. You’ll always have headaches in this business, but slow growth helps us keep them to a minimum and enables us to provide the kind of superior service for which the family-owned stores of the past became known.”