Retail Merchandiser - November/December 2017 - 84
Beacon & Bridge Market
chips, Prairie Farms and Kar's Nuts. "We can pretty much
go to these guys and get pretty good price advantages over
some of these other companies," Nelson says.
The shared geography with those suppliers enables Beacon & Bridge to operate more efficiently. Kar's Nuts, for example, is one of the few companies that distributes products
directly to Beacon & Bridge stores. "We get better service
that way," Tully explains. "We have minimal out-of-stocks
and receive innovation faster than through a grocer."
Founded in 1969 by CEO Bob Eastman, Beacon & Bridge
has grown to 23 locations in the northern parts of the state's
lower peninsula. Many stores are located in deer country
and serve the needs of the state's nearly 800,000 licensed
hunters, the third most of any state, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Aside from selling
beef jerky - a favorite snack among hunters - by the pound,
Beacon & Bridge stores also carry deer bait and other hunting supplies.
The convenience store operator caters to its communities
not only in the products it carriers, but through its involvement. Every store is given an annual budget to support local
Beacon & Bridge caters to its local markets by
selling specialty items that appeal to hunters,
such as jerky and deer bait.
charities, schools and programs. "I think that's really helped
out with doing yearbook ads and helping as much as we can
within the schools," Nelson says.
Several stores even allow area school children to paint artwork on their store windows, giving the buildings a unique
look and encouraging partners and family members to stop
in. That kind of outreach fits the culture Beacon & Bridge
wants to cultivate with its customers. "We pride ourselves
with the phrase 'everyone leaves with a smile,'" Nelson says.
Putting a smile on customers' faces begins with the employees. Every new worker must complete a five-day training program where they learn how to complete every job,
from sweeping floors to filling coolers and running the
register. From there, Beacon & Bridge conducts quarterly
training through online videos and in-store presenters who
cover topics such as loss prevention, human resources and
sexual harassment. "In the last five years, we've taken training very seriously," Nelson adds. "We've spent a lot of money
building our training programs."
The training programs are designed to instill Beacon &
Bridge's standards and culture into its employees, but like
many convenience store companies it struggles with retention. However, Nelson says the company isn't losing those
people to competing businesses that offer higher wages.
Rather, the structure of Michigan's public assistance programs makes it difficult to move those workers into fulltime roles.