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Healthy Tweaks

The newest Diaz Market gives its health-conscious community access to better eating options

The first sought-after element of a great new prototype is a great new location. Diaz Market recently found that in Covington, La., a town that has been experiencing significant migration and expansion ever since the devastating Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.

“We always wanted to be a part of the Covington community after Katrina — there was a need for a gas/convenience store — and then last year, a property opportunity came up,” recalled Giselle Diaz Eastlack, general manager of the 20-store Diaz Market chain founded by her parents in 1996.

Besides being located in a sprouting town, what also made the new store site so ideal is its close proximity to the area’s Coquille Parks and Recreation Center, which offers a variety of youth athletic programs and outdoor areas for the health-conscious local community.

While securing the location for the company’s expansion, Eastlack was pleased to discover that the nearby recreation center was likewise in the process of expanding. “So, we thought it was the perfect time to open the store,” she told Convenience Store News.

Diaz Market’s Covington prototype was intentionally designed to incorporate healthy snack and meal alternatives, now highlighted by a “huge, open-air cooler that is noticeable to customers as soon as they walk into the store,” Eastlack said. “We want to offer a variety of products — sweet treats for families going to the playground, but also have healthy alternatives.”

The open-air cooler offers a selection of fresh convenience cuisine, including fruit cups, salads, sandwiches, flatbread sandwiches, fresh snack packs and wraps. It is intended to give customers access to the healthy eating options they prefer at the convenience they need.


The prototype started out with just a four-foot section dedicated to these “better-for-you” options when it had its soft opening in December of last year. By March of this year, however, the store had already expanded the section to eight feet, plus the retailer added an endcap dedicated to healthier alternatives, as well as the aforementioned open-air cooler.

“We are constantly tweaking our product mix depending on requests from customers,” Eastlack explained. The fresh expansion in March ushered in more fresh sandwiches, more fruit cups and more cheese/fruit combo plates that “customers could grab and go,” she said.

In fact, the Covington store has become the inspiration for making healthier tweaks to all of Diaz Market’s food offerings chainwide.

“It’s our reaction to a change we see in the mindset of our customers,” said Eastlack. “It’s clear that not everybody is looking for chips every single day. Sometimes, they want to get something healthy, fresh, a better-for-you item. People are so busy now. So, when we can offer something healthier for our customers, they don’t have to run somewhere else to get these products.”

Eastlack said she can personally relate. “Being a woman and sometimes feeling like I’m always on a diet, I like to be able to go into one of my locations and buy raw almonds, a banana or a fruit cup instead of chips for a snack. But on cheat days, I also like to go in for cookies or a candy bar. It’s the same with our customers and this is our way of giving them true variety.”

Top-selling categories for the chain continue to be fountain beverages, coffee bar beverages and cigarettes, but many healthier alternatives are now in its top 50 SKUs, according to Eastlack. “They’re definitely rising upward,” she noted.


Beyond the “healthier living” upgrades, the Diaz Market prototype in Covington was designed to have a cleaner, homier feel. To achieve this, warm rustic hues such as beige and terracotta are utilized as the feature colors of the store. A polished concrete floor is another design element intended to add homey appeal. Overall, the company wanted to “nail down aesthetics that are easily recognizable and have a home feeling for our customers,” Eastlack stated.

Diaz Market plans to make this new store design the standard going forward by establishing a similar placement in all its stores for the coolers, fountains, the fast-food area and even the placement of the chain’s “D” logo design upon entering its locations.

Ever since the beginning of this year, the new Covington Diaz Market has been utilized “to focus on branding,” according to Eastlack. A new Facebook page launched “to engage customers and display deals” such as promotions of the month and giveaways, both at the store and chain levels. Recent promo prizes included concert tickets and celebrity meet-and-greets.

“We’ve been working with vendors on new deals, making sure the promo of the month is very visible for customers when they walk in,” she said. “We want to make sure we’re engaging our customers and positively upselling them, even if it’s a simple suggestion that a specific candy bar is on sale and having a box of them available on the checkout counter.”


For the remainder of 2013, Diaz Market’s expansion plans include two major remodel projects. One Diaz Market store from 1969 and another from 1972 (both still with mechanic bays that will be gutted out) are going to be reconfigured into larger convenience stores modeled after the Covington store. The remodels, though, will have one “next evolution” addition — both will have a deli, which was not put into the Covington store for space reasons.

For the long term, Diaz Market is looking to completely remodel all of its existing stores and grow its store count to 30 within the next seven years. Louisiana is the intended market, but Eastlack is keeping an open mind.

“I would never rule out other neighboring states like Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas [and] possibly even Alabama, if the opportunity was right,” she said.

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