Skip to main content

C.N. Brown Talks CITGO And Fresh Food Offerings


CITGO's ability to sustain C.N. Brown's current gasoline volumes and handle growth in the future weighed heavily on the Maine-based company's recent decision to convert 42 of its locally owned gas stations from the Mobil fuel brand to the CITGO brand, C.N. Brown's general manager Chick Wilkins told Convenience Store News.

The companies announced that C.N. Brown would transition the stations, located in Maine and New Hampshire, to the CITGO brand between now and April. The newly rebranded stations will feature CITGO's new street image, which was introduced at the end of August and features a predominately red triform design on the retail canopy and pumps.

Wilkins said the switch to CITGO came as the company's supply agreement with ExxonMobil was expiring, and C.N. Brown learned the oil company was changing its distribution model in the Northeast. "Exxon is not going to provide the gasoline anymore; you would have a franchise relationship and there would be a [franchise] fee," Wilkins explained. "So, we thought it might be time to look around and see what else was out there."

C.N. Brown already owns or services more than 30 CITGO locations in the Northeast, and chose to expand the partnership for several reasons — particularly, the oil company's crude supply sources and its refining capacity. Both companies also share New England roots.

"We expect our CITGO partnership to be long-term, and more likely than not, we will be adding more CITGO-branded sites to our portfolio going forward," Wilkins said.

Of the 42 stations being rebranded, 37 are owned and operated by C.N. Brown. The other five are independently owned and operated. All but seven have convenience stores.

Once the conversions are complete, C.N. Brown will have only two Mobil-branded stations left. Both locations are independently operated, and the owners chose to stick with Mobil.

In related company news, C.N. Brown doesn't have a huge fresh food offering at its Big Apple Food Stores, but the company is trying to change that, according to general manager Chick Wilkins.

The retailer — which owns and operates 78 c-stores in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts — has entered into a franchise agreement with Amato's, a New England chain of sandwich shops, and recently debuted its first location inside its Lancaster, N.H., store.

The Amato's menu includes a breakfast line, sandwiches, pizza and more. The program has been up and running for three weeks and is already exceeding projections, Wilkins said. C.N. Brown plans to open its second Amato's in-store franchise in Portsmouth, N.H., in three months.

"We like that it's a well-known, established sandwich and pizza offering. They have a high-quality product and good pricing," he said. "This seems to be something people grab hold of."

While most of the chain's c-stores now sell prepackaged sandwiches, fresh food is a category that C.N. Brown plans to put a lot of focus on this year. Two new Big Apple Food Stores are currently under construction and will offer fresh food when they open this spring.

One of the new builds will include an Amato's franchise, while the other will become the second location to feature the chain's proprietary deli, in addition to offering Chester's chicken.

Aside from foodservice, Wilkins said value will continue to be a focal point for 2011, since consumers are still very conscientious of their spending. The retailer's marketing team and category managers have been providing the stores with special pricing and value-added products.

"Their practice is to make price points that attract consumer attention, such as three-for-one and two-for-one pricing. We're also looking for manufacturers with products that have coupon offers," Wilkins told Convenience Store News. "These strategies seem to be working."

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds