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On Its New Mark

Convenience store design change is good, particularly in a competitive market like Charlotte, N.C., according to Mark Oil Co. President Bill Tome, who recently told Convenience Store News that the formidable presence of QuikTrip and 7-Eleven has made “everyone up their game.”

And so, the BP distributor that owns but doesn’t operate most of its 26 locations unveiled a new design with its latest store, Shopton Commons BP. Constructed near a new Tanger outlet mall west of Charlotte, the convenience store had a soft opening in December and celebrated its grand opening in April.

“The large-format stores we built in our market over the last 10 years were mostly of the old BP Connect construction and we felt we needed a change to the interior beyond the standard graphics package,” Tome explained.

That desired change came with the help of an area designer, Gay Diller, who was recommended to Tome by a jobber in a nearby county. She created a look that was “non-standard” to the convenience store industry, reflected in the wall colors, lighting, department signage and delineation of Shopton Commons BP, according to Tome.

Lighting is an important element in creating a modern and upscale look in the store, Diller believes. Drop-in 2×4 fluorescents are “unique and do not create such a harsh and cold look,” she said. To accentuate the lighting, the ceiling was painted a taupe color “so it was not too dark or stark white.” The design also incorporates a lot of LED can fixtures — on dimmers in the coffee and cashier areas, as well as LED tracks around the perimeter of the store.

Even the bathrooms were taken into unique design consideration, in this case thanks to an idea Tome borrowed from an article he read in CSNews on Ricker’s convenience stores in Indianapolis. “There was a picture and description of a sink whereby customers could get soap, wash and dry their hands all within the sink itself,” he said. “So, I called the company and got their input on it. It’s a great example of reaching out to some of your friends in this business and getting help.”


Department-wise, the beer cave is a highlight at Shopton Commons BP, inspired by the microbreweries found in the area.

“We created a color palette with the warm metal and wood finishes you see in a lot of the old mills that have been renovated and repurposed into breweries around Charlotte’s South End neighborhood,” said Diller. “The design of the beer area evolved as we discovered more efficient and easy ways to install and replicate finishes.”

The first idea was to use actual distressed or reclaimed wood. “We ended up using a unique wood grain wallpaper product over the entire area above the beer cave doors, then making the signage out of grey and metallic materials, conveying an industrial look and feel,” she added.

The beer cave sets the tone for the rest of the store, too. Although the rest of the store is more colorful, metal finishes and industrial “bolt-like hardware” were incorporated throughout the design, according to Diller.

Overall, the goal was to achieve “a balance of a modern look with some references to a fun, almost nostalgic, carnival-like vibe, repeating geometric diamond and circle shapes around the coffee and soda corner,” she noted.

The lighting package, wall color scheme and edgy graphic signage all blend together in a warm way to reach out to both male and female customers, Tome reported. The new store is receiving a good percentage of destination (outlet mall) traffic as well as neighborhood traffic — both in a growth stage thanks to local residential development.


Safety was equally important to an attractive store design when Shopton Commons BP was planned, and so the design shouts out a very visible and open layout.

“The public, and primarily women, like to see clearly through to the back of the store,” Tome explained. “So, we keep signage off the windows, maintain low shelving and make sure the beverage vendors don’t put tall racks up, blocking the windows in the front. From the pump, people should see clearly inside to the store. The police recommended that, too. It’s been proven safer if they can see through to the inside view.”

Making the store feel as friendly and safe as possible to invite folks to come inside were the main objectives, added Diller.

“We wanted to make the store look as intriguing and unique as we could from the outside, while allowing customers to see what was going on inside as they approached,” she said.

While Shopton Commons BP is not being called a new prototype, per se, Mark Oil does plan to incorporate many of the design elements of this latest store into its next locations with “some tweaking here and there,” based on the particular store and location, Tome said.

There is another store planned in the Charlotte area, but since it’s not finalized yet, Tome said he is “keeping it quiet” for now.

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