The walls of Byrne Dairy Inc.?s newest store model practically talk to customers.
Highlighted in its Whitesboro, N.Y., store, which opened in fall 2012, the walls are adorned with photographs of a truck loading up milk at the local dairy farm; the bustling milk processing plant in Syracuse; a delivery truck bringing milk to the store; and local residents buying milk produced in their neighborhood. This wall art is flanked by perhaps the most impressive image of all: the local dairy farmer who made it all happen. His name and address are even included so that customers can connect with him. That?s assuming they don?t know him already.
?Many times, the local dairy farmers we highlight shop in that store, and many in the community do know him,? said Mark Byrne, president and CEO of Sonbyrne Sales Inc., the retail division of Lafayette, N.Y.-based Byrne Dairy. Putting his photograph on the wall solidifies the core values the chain has always had ? only now the stores are ?wearing? it in their design.
?We?ve always been a local company that buys from local farmers; all our milk comes from family farms and we?re family-owned. A lot of people know that, we?re just highlighting it,? Byrne told Convenience Store News. ?For new customers, it?s a real draw ? they see the local farmer up there, they realize their kids go to school with his kids [and] they know exactly where their milk comes from. It?s a concept that?s really working. Nowadays, people are tracing backward. They want to know where their products came from, where it was manufactured and who handled it. We?re playing off that theme and it has been very successful.?
Because Byrne Dairy knows its convenience stores are a dairy destination ? customers come specifically for its dairy products including milk, ice cream, yogurt and cheese, and for other local products to feed their families ? it wanted the store atmosphere to be more conducive to customers lingering a little longer, much like many upscale supermarkets have done.
In fact, Byrne admits that he and the Byrne Dairy team visited other retailers, including supermarkets, ?and picked elements from the best of what we saw.?
The Whitesboro store reflects that with ?a more welcoming and relaxed atmosphere,? according to Byrne. The design includes walls painted with more ?earth-tone? colors, richer floors and subtle lighting. ?Instead of real bright lighting and white walls, we toned it down and made it more muted, more relaxed, so people would be able to shop and eat for a while longer,? he explained.
Additionally, the new design provides a lot more room to move around. The Whitesboro store was designed with wider aisles so shopping carts could be maneuvered more freely.
?We have shopping carts in all of our stores for the many customers that come in and buy a couple gallons of milk at a time, half-gallons of ice cream and products from our large cereal section,? Byrne said, pointing out that the company has its own grocery warehouse and thus, its stores offer a bigger grocery section than most traditional c-stores.
Byrne Dairy is also one of the few retailers that still offer true half-gallons of ice cream. ?A lot of the national brands have shrunk their sizes down, and our customers notice that we did not,? Byrne added.
The Whitesboro store has five freezer doors housing just its ice cream (there are nine doors in total of frozen foods). Byrne Dairy?s ice cream products also include sherbet and ?cookwiches?? Byrne Dairy ice cream sandwiched between two chocolate chip cookies baked by the company?s own bakery. In addition, six refrigerated doors are devoted just to dairy products, including chocolate milk, cheeses and yogurt, as well as eggs from a local farm.
While inviting customers to shop longer, the store also invites them to sit down and relax awhile. A seating area includes booths where they can enjoy a host of options, including coffee, doughnuts, a slice of pizza, a sandwich and/or a multitude of fresh-food options.
Shelby?s doughnuts, Byrne Dairy?s proprietary brand, are made from scratch and currently delivered to 30 of its 53 convenience stores daily, seven days a week.
Like most forward-moving convenience retailers, a big highlight for Byrne Dairy is better-quality foodservice. The chain?s Byrnsie?s Deli features ?mighty fine foods? like subs and sandwiches. Its deli slogan even playfully ties in its dairy roots ? ?Fast, fresh & udderly delicious.?
For those customers on the go, refrigerated cases house options such as yogurt parfaits, fresh fruit cups, sandwiches and salads. The sandwiches are made from local cheeses and meats because ?we want to promote the local aspect of foods in the store wherever possible,? Byrne said.
Three more Byrne Dairy stores are slated to open in New York in the near term and they will all model the Whitesboro store in design. ?It?s a concept that?s working, and we?ve had no need to change it or even tweak it since we opened it,? Byrne stated.
But that?s not to say the chain isn?t keeping its eyes and options open.
?We do a lot of traveling across the country, specifically to look at other stores and concepts,? Byrne maintained. ?We intend to keep improving.?