Little Oil Co. Jumps Back Into C-store Ops After 20 Years


EMPORIA, Va. — It was during the 95th anniversary celebration of Little Oil Co. Inc. that owner Stratford Ward decided it was time for a new convenience store, seeing as the company hadn’t operated or opened one in 20 years.

A family business, Richmond, Va.-based Little Oil Co. was founded in 1921 by Ward’s grandfather. The company distributes motor fuels to convenience stores, service stations and commercial customers throughout Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina.

Three years later, with the goal of taking a fresh approach to the convenience store business, CornerStone Market celebrated its grand opening on Oct. 6 in the town of Emporia.

Sitting on a 1-acre lot, the 5,000-square-foot store is unique in a number of ways.

The first way is that CornerStone Market features a 1,082-square-foot Subway restaurant — the only one of its kind in this community of 15,000 people. The second way is with its BP-branded motor fuel offering, which is a first for the entire state of Virginia.

As drivers approach Virginia from North Carolina on the interstate, they will see and recognize the unmistakable BP logo, as it sits high atop a LED price sign and reader board.

CornerStone Market is also the first c-store in Virginia made of precast concrete. This construction type is quicker to install, sturdier and less expensive than normal types, according to Barry Grizzard, sales manager for Little Oil Co., who came up with the store’s name. 

Grizzard thought up the moniker based on the building’s stone exterior and the c-store’s positioning on a street corner. The use of stone is carried through to the store’s entrance columns, beer cave entrance, primary ID sign base, and fountain drink area as well.

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, CornerStone Market is a foodservice- and beverage-centric convenience store. In addition to the Subway restaurant, customers can find an array of hot and freshly prepared Hunt Brothers Pizza menu items to choose from, from slices of pizza to whole pies, to wings and WingBites, and cheese breadsticks. 

On the sweeter side, a Southern Sweets doughnut program, Flavor Burst soft-serve ice cream offering, and Razzle milkshake program are CornerStone Market’s “secret weapon” in setting itself apart from the traditional convenience foodservice offerings, according to Grizzard.

CornerStone Market is well-positioned to attract locals, tourists and professional drivers with its prime Interstate 95 location. According to Grizzard, Emporia serves as the main interchange going north or south on I-95, and marks the halfway point between Maine and Florida.

The Emporia location is not expected to be a one-off for Little Oil Co. The company believes CornerStone Market is positioned to grow by at least one new store a year.

Look in the December issue of Convenience Store News for more on CornerStone Market.  

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