PHOTO GALLERY: The Design Behind the First-Ever Shell Select Convenience Store

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PHOTO GALLERY: The Design Behind the First-Ever Shell Select Convenience Store

Shell Select convenience store in Louisville, Ky.
Bona Design Lab worked with Shell to create a modern space focused on unique food and beverages.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — When Shell began plans to open its first Shell-branded convenience store in the United States, it wanted a concept that reflected its commitment to supporting its wholesale network in the country through a strong, competitive retail format.

To help with that vision, the company turned to New York-based Bona Design Lab, a global retail design and consulting firm.

The first Shell Select store opened Sept. 5 in Louisville. The convenience store is operated by Estepp Energy, a Lexington, Ky.-based wholesaler of Shell-branded motor fuel.

"Our mandate was to take the Shell Select global brand and adapt it to the U.S. market, while creating a design that communicates the wholesaler's local roots in Louisville," said Joseph Bona, president of Bona Design Lab. "We're proud to be one of the national and local suppliers that Shell Oil Products US selected to help them with this initiative."

As Convenience Store News previously reported, Shell chose Louisville to debut its Shell Select c-store concept because of its vibrant local culture and reputation for unique food and beverage offers. 

"We are excited to offer a new and unique experience for our customers," said Gyongyver Menesi-Bondar, head of convenience retail for Shell Oil Products US. "Shell Select is different from traditional convenience stores in that it provides high-quality, fresh, culinary-inspired food and beverage options for customers who are on the go, and it also provides the ability to get in and out at your own pace without being slowed and without feeling rushed."

The U.S. prototype is on the site of a former Thorntons convenience store. The original store structure remains, but Shell worked with Bona Design Lab to redesign the exterior and interior, as well as create a new layout.

The goal of the overall design was to create a strong food and beverage presentation that includes local touches and products, according to Bona.

The effort began with a revamped exterior that incorporates modern architecture with an upscale outdoor seating area covered by an awning and screened in by greenery. Signage invites customers to "Have a Seat and Chill."

"We wanted to make sure that the architecture, including the outdoor seating, signals to people that this is a destination for food and beverage, with more than just the traditional convenience store categories," Bona explained. "It is intended to disrupt people's usual expectations of what they'll find at a gas station."

Stepping inside, the layout and design work together to put the focus on the consumable offerings. Customers find the self-service beverage offering to the left of the entrance and food products filling the back wall.

Although the store footprint measures 2,221 square feet, an open ceiling and open layout help create a space that feels spacious and is easy to navigate, according to the design firm.

The interior treatment makes use of the Shell Select palette of colors and materials, but reinterprets them to underscore the central role of food and beverage, Bona said.

Natural dark materials and warm wood tones work with LED lighting to create visual interest with highlights and contrasts within an overall ambience that is warm and inviting. The effect is "a far cry" from the harsh fluorescent glare typical of older-generation convenience stores, he added.

The interior design is further distinguished by a clean, understated approach to departmental graphics.

"We stayed away from the hectic graphic treatments and vivid colors that characterize a lot of older convenience store designs," Bona said. "We wanted to keep the food and other merchandise center stage and used lighting and fixtures to achieve that."

A notable exception is a mural created by a local artist on one wall that presents a stylized map of Louisville, highlighting some of the iconic features the city is known for.

"This was the one area where we used graphics to create a local feeling," Bona explained. "We wanted to make sure that the people of Louisville know this is a retailer with local roots who understands their tastes."