A privately owned convenience store chain based in the Northeast is expanding into South Florida with hot sandwiches, custom-made coffee drinks and milkshakes.
No, it’s not called Wawa.
We’re talking about Cumberland Farms, a longtime presence in Florida and eight Northeastern states, which is making strides to compete with chains like Wawa, RaceTrac and 7-Eleven that have been expanding food and beverage choices for years.
The Westborough, Mass.-based chain is finishing construction of its first two “next-generation” stores in South Florida. The first is scheduled to open in mid-September in Margate, on West Atlantic Boulevard just west of State Road 7, while the second, on Wiles Road just west of University Drive in Coral Springs, is expected to open before the end of the month, according to David Heilbronner, director of brand strategy and advertising for Cumberland Farms Inc.
The next-generation stores are larger than the company’s legacy stores and sit on larger parcels, Heilbronner said. “We realized we needed a bigger footprint because we extended the product line. We needed more parking, and we needed more space for gas pumps,” he said.
The company’s modernization strategy also includes remodeling older stores and expanding their offerings, Heilbronner said.
Like at Wawa and fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s, customers order hot foods and drinks at a touch-screen terminal and are served by a staff member a few moments later.
“Food service is a big part of the next-generation concept,” Helibronner said. “The industry as a whole has been expanding food service to make up for declining tobacco sales and declining fuel sales as cars become more fuel-efficient.”
Offerings will include breakfast and lunch sandwiches, pizza, frittatas, macaroni and cheese, mozzarella sticks and roller-grill items such as hot dogs. Cold sandwiches will be available as well.
Beverage offerings will include specialty coffee, espresso, cappuccino, shakes and smoothies — “all made to order,” Heilbronner said.
Unlike at Wawa, hot foods won’t be assembled on site but will be pre-made and heated when they are ordered, he said. That approach helps “get the customers in and out because that’s what they’re used to,” he said.
No other new Cumberland Farm stores are under construction in South Florida, but company planners are always looking for opportunities to add more, he said.
Several new Cumberland Farms stores have opened in the area in recent years, including on South Federal Highway in Deerfield Beach, on West State Road 84 in Davie, and on State Road 7 in Boca Raton.
The first next-generation site opened in August 2017 in Titusville, and the company has opened more than two dozen since then, according to Convenience Store News, an industry trade publication and website.
Cumberland Farms operates 552 stores in Florida and seven Northeastern states — Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Maine, New York and Vermont, the company’s website shows.
That’s about half as many as the 1,150 stores the company operated in 1990, according to a posting from The International Directory of Company Histories on the website FundingUniverse.com.
There are 12 in South Florida: eight in Palm Beach County and four in Broward County, excluding the two new ones.
It sold its dairy farm in the mid-1980s but continues to offer self-branded milk and ice cream, as well as other products.
Cumberland Farm’s website today touts its determination to start fresh as a “brand new 75-year-old company” with a “new leadership. New mission. New Vision. New store designs. New products. New headquarters. Even a new logo.”
What isn’t new: The company has been owned by the Haseotes family since Greek immigrants Vasilios and Aphrodite Haseotes purchased a single-cow farm in Cumberland, Rhode Island in 1939, according to the company’s website. Its current president and CEO, Ari Haseotes, is one of the couple’s grandsons.
By Ron Hurtibise, Sun Sentinel
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