Double D Market Leans Into Its Roots

The Defiance, Mo., convenience store focuses on strong customer connections.
The Double D Market exterior

DEFIANCE, Mo. — It doesn't have a mobile app, drive-thru or self-checkout. There is no beer cave on the premises. But what is absent is part of the simple plan and allure of Double D Market, located at the intersection of Highways D and DD in Defiance.

"We are a dying breed, but I hear from my regulars very often how much they appreciate the small 'mom and pop' feel and the service they receive," Mary Jo Keevan, co-owner of the 2,200-square-foot single store, told Convenience Store News. "They tell us all the time, 'Please don't change.' They want that 'good old days' kind of atmosphere. Change is inevitable, but not always the preferred option, thankfully."

And so, Double D Market puts an emphasis on its country pride. Patrons are greeted in-store by a sign that reads, "A Day in the Country is Worth A Million in Town!"

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When Keevan or her co-owner Debbie Groesch is working, country oldies songs can often be heard playing throughout the store. "Customers come to the counter singing. We send them off with a smile on their face," she said.

Accompanying the ambiance is down-home cooking, particularly Double D's hot breakfast sandwiches, which are made every morning in its kitchen. The store opens at 4:30 a.m. on weekdays and 5:30 a.m. on weekends to get breakfast started early. About 100 breakfast sandwiches are sold each day, sometimes more.

"Nothing is microwaved," Keevan proudly notes. 

Another customer favorite is the store's homemade mini loaves of banana bread. Deli sandwiches are made fresh every day, too. Double D Market closes at 9 p.m. daily.

The store boasts a full line of groceries and "a good selection" of frozen goods, according to Keevan. "Our customers appreciate that we have a little of everything," she said.

"Everything" includes nightcrawlers and fishing lures and a pancake flipper, to name just a few of the options. The store caters to customers of the nearby August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area, with numerous fishing lakes located just a couple of miles down Highway D.

Not Without Challenges

Of course, like every convenience store operator these days, the owners of Double D Market face some challenges. Keevan explained that one of the business' biggest obstacles is part of its charm: the building itself, which was built in the 1940s as a combination store/tavern, with a baseball diamond and horseshoe pits out back. 

Double D owners Debbie Groesch and Mary Jo Keeven and manager Kay VandeVen
From left: Owners Debbie Groesch and Mary Jo Keeven and manager Kay VandeVen

Old, dated features have needed attention. "We have slowly been replacing equipment, including an ancient beast of a freezer, which we had to cut into pieces to remove," she said.

Double D is limited on the fuel side of the business as well, handicapped by its small lot. It has four fueling positions and not enough room to add more pumps.

"We also wish we could sell diesel fuel, but we only sit on a little over an acre. Selling fuel is itself a big question mark with margins never being consistent," said Keevan. "Considering it's close to three-fourths of every dollar we take in, we have to make sure to draw our customers inside. Our hot breakfast sandwiches do that."

Preserving Simple

Just as Double D Market has strong roots in the community, Keevan has strong roots in the convenience store business. In 1973, when she was a senior in high school, her parents built and opened a convenience store on Highway K in O'Fallon, Mo.

"I was one of eight kids and we all worked [there]," she recalled. "I purchased that business, the K-Shop, in 1992. I considered my dad a very smart businessman, and I learned a lot from him."

The now Double D Market came up for sale in 2002. It was previously named Friedly's Market. The previous owners, Don and Jane Friedly, were well-liked in the community and had run the business for approximately 25 years.

"I was familiar with the store and loved its country location. In 2002, the Friedlys were eager to move on and the sale happened quickly," Keevan explained. "A good friend of mine became co-owner and we officially became the Double D Market in June of that year. In 2004, after selling the K-Shop, we expanded the Double D: moved walls, added a beer cooler and additional shelving, and started selling deli sandwiches and our hot breakfast sandwiches."

Now in their late 60s, Keevan and her partner are starting to think about retiring and "looking for that next person to take over and love getting to know their customers and keeping things pretty simple."

Does she believe their concept will continue to work in the future?

"I think community c-stores like ours will always survive because we offer what you just don't find in retail of any other kind. It's about great personal service, when someone knows your name and greets you as you walk through the door. Our customers are our friends; their kids work for us," she said. "If you forgot your wallet, no problem. If you're home sick and need a delivery, we got it. It's all about being good neighbors and it works both ways."

At the core of Double D's community success is its staff. "We rely on our employees and are blessed to have very good ones," said Keevan. "They take our lead, getting to know customers by their names and taking care to keep them happy.

"I love teaching our staff about the c-store business and how it works. I believe it makes the job more interesting," she added, acknowledging that it would be nice to lease the business to an employee, teaching them what it's taken her years to learn and love.

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