PHOTO GALLERY: Dash In Redefines the Neighborhood Store Concept

The convenience retailer's new prototype focuses on the guest experience with a new visual identity, an elevated store experience and an all-new menu.
Danielle Romano
A new Dash In convenience store in Loudon County, Va.

NATIONAL REPORT — It was 2016 when Dash In renewed its focus on the neighborhood store concept, reimagining an environment that was warm, inviting and reflected the community. A year later, the retailer took these elements and began applying them across its network of convenience stores, which today includes more than 55 locations throughout Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

With this new focus, company executives began to revisit the Dash In brand as well. A brand strategy review included consumer research across the retailer's network in the Mid-Atlantic region and asked consumers why they chose Dash In. Was it for gas, or were they also interested in the convenience experience? At the same time, the company was building out its Splash In ECO Car Wash offering, so the retailer researched how all of the elements available at Dash In aligned with what guests were looking for.

As the company entered 2018 — the third year of the neighborhood store concept — it studied guest feedback and saw that Dash In had something, but the retailer wanted to explore how it could take the brand to the next level.

At a Glance

Opened: March 2023

Location: Gateway Village, 24755 Gum Spring Road, Chantilly, Va.

Size: 5,600 square feet

Unique features: A new visual brand identity for Dash In and Splash In ECO Car Wash; an elevated store environment designed to foster transparency and openness throughout the guest experience; an open kitchen at the center of the store; an all-new "made for you" menu; a craft beverage wall

Fast forward to the spring of 2023 and Dash In introduced a first-of-its-kind prototype inspired by the guest feedback and company learnings of the last several years. The new flagship store debuted in Loudon County, Va., an entirely new market for the retailer.

"It's the first location where we could debut all of the components of the next-generation Dash In," said Julian (Blackie) Wills III, president and chief operating officer for La Plata, Md.-based The Wills Group Inc., parent company to Dash In, Splash In ECO Car Wash and SMO Moto Fuels. "This Dash In location fits into our long-term strategic goals because it sets the bar for an elevated customer experience and provides Dash In with a location where we can test a variety of new foodservice and beverage offerings, using this location to examine guest feedback and enhance offerings at our other Dash In locations across the Mid-Atlantic region.

"Our newest Dash In location is the place where we can answer the question, 'What if...' We then examine the results and determine how we can roll out what we've learned," he added.

Elevated Elements

Located at Gateway Village in Chantilly, Va., the new Dash In flagship store measures 5,600 square feet. A grand opening celebration was held March 31.

Three integral elements make up Dash In's latest store prototype:

1. A New Visual Identity for Dash In & Splash In

Dash In unveiled the next step in its ongoing commitment to evolving the brand, introducing renewed Dash In and Splash In ECO Car Wash visual identities at the Chantilly location. The new Dash In brand features a script font, an updated warm color palette, and a map marker that brings familiarity to guests.

"The identity informs our desire for Dash In to be seen as a destination," Wills explained. "And now, the Dash In and Splash In identities are related. They reflect a commitment to create an aligned family of brands that reflect what our guests are looking for from Dash In and Splash In."

The 48-foot-long rollover Splash In ECO Car Wash on the site is open seven days a week and features four vacuum stations.

2. An Elevated Store Environment

The new prototype was designed to foster transparency and openness throughout the guest experience, alongside fresh-made food offerings.

The concept presents an elevated modern look featuring high ceilings, Douglas fir ceiling beams and polished concrete floors. Floor-to-ceiling windows create a bright, warm and welcoming environment, while lower center-store gondolas create a clear line of sight across the store.

Dash In's open kitchen is at the center of the store experience, flanked by a craft beverage wall on one side featuring bean-to-cup coffee, organic sodas, an extensive tea offering, lime-aid and natural agua frescas. A beer cave and wine selection are featured on the other side.

To further raise the bar on convenience, Dash In team members serve as concierges and float around the store with a focus on answering customer questions and ensuring that Dash In guests find what they are looking for.

Other amenities include indoor and outdoor seating, three self-checkout lanes and two full-service checkout lanes.

3. An All-New "Made for You" Menu

"Foodservice is front and center at this location. We think it's important for our customers to see the fresh ingredients and how everything is being made," said Wills. "It looks and feels like a restaurant. With this Dash In location, we think we have raised the bar for what convenience can look like."

Dash In's signature Craveable menu has been expanded with "made for you" items, including:

  • Smashed, griddle prep specialty burgers (the plant-based Impossible Burger is available as a substitute for any burger);
  • Main course salads such as Southwest Steak and Crispy Chicken Cobb;
  • Kitchen Bowls featuring field greens or quinoa, including La Cocina and Veggie Power;
  • Familiar favorites such as Stackadillas and all-day breakfast using fresh-cracked eggs;
  • Fresh-made biscuits, croissants and mini doughnuts; and
  • A self-serve, automated shake and smoothie machine that prepares more than 40 different beverages to order.

For the store's grand opening, the retailer partnered with celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn to present a limited-time burger offering, the Spike Burger, which was available exclusively at the Chantilly Dash In through May.

Expanding the Experience

Dash In's near-term focus is to replicate its all-new store experience across northern Virginia, and then roll out these elements across the entire chain. Although the retailer wants to accelerate these new offerings, the company is being intentional about how and when that happens by adhering to a disciplined approach that ensures guests come along for the journey.

"Dash In has always been informed by our collective desire to fuel the journeys of our neighbors through good food, warm smiles and giving back to our local communities," Wills said. "Our newest Dash In location is a demonstration of the potential for what this commitment can look like when we put guests first and use that as motivation to ensure that Dash In changes the way they think about convenience."

About the Author

Danielle Romano

Danielle Romano

Danielle Romano is Managing Editor of Convenience Store News. She joined the brand in 2015. Danielle manages the overall editorial production of Convenience Store News magazineShe is also the point person for the candy & snacks and small operator beats.

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