20 Mar Success is where you find it. And who you work with.
Tommy Thompson (Liberty Convenience Center)
Tommy Thompson knows it’s easier keeping C-Stores current with consumer trends when you’re part of a larger corporation. That hasn’t stopped him. “Sure, I’m independently owned, and I don’t get a steady supply of corporate research. I’m kind of on an island when it comes to that, so I get my ideas by visiting other stores.”
There’s a distinct upside to that equation. “I get to pick and choose what I like.” And one thing Tommy likes a lot these days is Taylor’s Flavor Burst soft serve machine. In 2013, he jumped, feet first, into the yogurt business — so he already knew how profitable frozen desserts can be.
“I was visiting my daughter in Oklahoma City. She’d been impressed by a new convenience store near her, so she took me to see it. They had a Yogurt Express bar there. That’s the first time I’d seen that, and it blew me away.” Tommy bought three machines for his store and added a toppings bar. It worked. Sales took off, and remained strong for two years.
“My yogurt machines were made by Domper. In 2015, one of them broke down — and when I tried calling the company, I found out they’d gone bankrupt.”
That’s when he called TSSI.
“James Palmer came to see me, and showed me the Flavor Swirl machine with 8 flavors. That convinced me to replace the yogurt machine with soft serve ice cream. His timing couldn’t have been better.
“The yogurt business had started declining on us, and Soft Serve was the perfect solution. Taylor’s machine now generates about 90% of our frozen dessert revenue.” He’s since converted his remaining yogurt machine to sugar-free & fat-free, for customers with diet restrictions. “I get a steady flow of people to that machine, but our Flavor Burst machine is where nearly all my revenue’s coming from these days.”
Two things you can count on
Tommy also appreciates Taylor equipment durability. Not to mention TSSI’s support. “I’ve had my Flavor Burst machine now for nearly two and a half years, and we’ve had no issues at all. It’s a great machine and we do a good job taking care of it.
“When we call TSSI, no matter what it’s for, they’re always Johnny On The Spot. There have been times when I’ve ordered new flavor swirls, and get delivery the very next day. When I call with questions, they always have answers. And they’re always friendly on the phone.”
Expanding the relationship
Tommy’s also been particularly pleased with a Digital Menu Board TSSI recently designed and delivered. “Running a convenience store these days, you have to multi-purpose, and I needed help with my chicken program. I was using Chester’s, but the quality had gone down — and I’m only going to offer the best. So I created my own brand.
“Anyhow, I wanted to upgrade the digital screen for our Deli menu. TSSI designed it, and gave me a great price. It’s phenomenal. Between our branding, and now digital board, it makes us look national.
Great relationship. Great ROI.
“Working with TSSI is such a pleasure. Their equipment and support are great. They’ve done a great job of training me on my machines. And the better you know how to use the machines, the more you’ll get from them.”
Tommy’s path to success, in his own words
Walt Disney once said something that’s always stuck with me: “Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done right.” You could say I’ve built my career and business on the foundation of that quote.
Straight out of college, I worked for 9 years with 7-Eleven Corporation. I learned more about how to make a living there than I ever did in college. And one thing I learned was recognizing a good opportunity when I saw it.
When I was 26 years old, the Magic Market in my neighborhood closed. I looked at the situation and thought, they have good traffic flow and there are lots of houses nearby. The only problem is the store is run down.
So I called the owners and asked them if they would be willing to sell it to me. I needed $80,000 to buy it. The problem was I had no collateral. So the bank turned me down. I went back to the landlord and explained the situation. He said, “I don’t usually do this, how about we go partners. I’ll leave you alone, you run the business, and we’ll split the profits 50/50.” I took that deal.
So how did I find the location for Liberty Convenience? It was just a piece of dirt in Millbrook. But it had everything needed for a good convenience store. Local traffic. Lots of rooftops. And it’s in a safe area.
It took two years after opening to build up the business. We had to change local shopping habits. Then we hit a homerun. It’s 3300 square feet. Which is bigger than stores used to be, but smaller than the new stores typically are.
The industry has changed so much over the years. When I started, very few C-stores sold gas. It was just bread, milk, beer and cigarettes. After gas became a big money maker, the next growth area was food. That’s when the industry evolved to a true convenience concept.
I kept my partnership with the man who helped me get it all started, right up until the day he died in 2009. Even though we’d expanded to three stores, and I was doing all the work, I never thought about renegotiating the split in profits with him. He had faith in me when I needed it, and that meant more to me than money ever will.