ENroute Market Provides a Path to Healthy Convenience
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — While at a baseball tournament with her sons a few years ago, ENroute Market founder and owner Heather McNeil was given 15 minutes before the next game to grab something to eat. Upon walking into a 7-Eleven store — the closest option — she asked out loud, “Where is the convenience store for people who care what they put in their body?”
“The moment the words left my lips, I had chills all over me. I thought, could this really not exist? I stayed up all night and Googled ‘healthy, upscale convenience store’ in every major city in the world. There wasn’t a brand in existence!” McNeil told Convenience Store News. “I immediately began writing my business plan, raised 100 percent of the money, and ENroute was born.”
Located at 7000 Sunne Lane in Walnut Creek, ENroute Market opened in late January. The business’ name stemmed from McNeil stepping into the mindset of her shoppers who would think, “I can get the healthiest version of whatever I’m craving on the way.”
At 1,600 square feet, ENroute Market seeks to redefine convenience by being a healthy convenience store providing nourishment for life’s journey, according to its creator. The concept is designed to reach health and fitness conscious consumers, as well as always-on-the-go working parents and professionals.
Although ENroute Market carries most food items that a typical c-store would carry, it differentiates itself by offering products made without artificial ingredients and preservatives.
The company stays true to this core value by being “extraordinarily” diligent about the products it carries so its guests don’t have to, McNeil explained. Before a product hits shelves, she tastes every item and investigates its ingredients to make sure it aligns with ENroute Market’s promise of no preservatives, artificial ingredients, corn syrups or hydrogenated oils.
Another differentiator for ENroute Market is its grab-and-go menu, which was created by Chef Charles Ayers Jr., the former executive chef for Google Inc. Some of the chef-created meals spanning the breakfast, lunch and dinner dayparts include: Kale-Ifornia Nutrition, made with scrambled cage-free egg whites, roasted vegetables, sautéed kale and chimi-curry sauce; the Veggie-licious Sandwich that includes an array of roasted and grilled vegetables; and the Longevity Salad that is made up of arugula, red bell peppers, grilled marinated tri-tip and topped with a Vietnamese dressing.
Other offerings shoppers can expect to find at ENroute Market are Italian coffee, cold-pressed juice, cheese and charcuterie, candy, snacks, cookies, ice cream, pizza, Kombucha on tap, and a plethora of local and specialty food products. Craft beer and restaurant wines are available for onsite consumption, and a small selection of sundries and gifts can be purchased.
When asked what ENroute Market’s future holds, McNeil expressed to CSNews that her goal is to reinvent the “convenience store,” change the way people view this segment of food, and make healthy food available to people on the go. To achieve this goal, one location isn’t enough.
“I cannot do this with one location. I receive multiple calls a week from developers who want ENroute in their suburban neighborhoods; however, my preference is to open my second location in downtown San Francisco to prove that the concept also has legs in densely populated urban environments,” she explained. “I’d like to see ENroutes in every major city in the country because healthier food options should be available in a convenience format.”
For more on ENroute Market, look in the October issue of Convenience Store News.