Feel the Squeeze

University of Northern Colorado operator turns a “shoebox” into a c-store

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The exercise led him to eliminate an entire gondola so students didn’t have to “dirty dance” down the aisle, and shift the remaining stands on an angle for better visibility and space.

“When you see it on a schematic, everything looks like you have all this room,” he says. “But then as you start adding things in, all of a sudden two people can’t even walk down the aisle.”

Munchy Mart offers an impressive array of products for such a small square footage, including sweet and salty snacks, candy, packaged beverages, HBC and grocery goods.

Brown also had to create a foodservice offer that didn’t need a hood system, which wasn’t possible in the space. So he focused on grab and go and home meal replacements. Foodservice offerings include cinnamon rolls and other pastries, salads and produce cups, sandwiches, pepperoni rolls and Bearitos—breakfast burritos named after UNC’s mascot. Students can choose from grab-and-go hot and cold items, as well as meals and snacks that can be microwaved either in the store or in the food court down the hall.

Brown’s best sellers include the Bearitos, snacks such as Bagel Bites and Pizza Rolls, Chapstick, and f’real smoothies and milkshakes. He’s also surprised by how well milk, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, gum and any kind of gummy candy does in his store.

Brown differentiates his offer with a focus on retro candies such as Fruit Stripe gum, Sixlets and Pop Rocks, as well as the Kraut Burger—ground beef sautéed with cabbage and stuffed and baked in a large dinner roll for a portable meal.

When the weather is warm, students flock to the frozen novelties. After starting with a wide assortment of gelatos, Brown scaled back the number of flavors offered and filled in the space with ice cream sandwiches and other popular treats.

“The gelato sells well, but there are only a few flavors that the customers really want,” he says.

Out of a tall order and a shoebox with nothing but a copy-center legacy, Brown has built an environment brimming with personality. “It’s a really funky, neat little store,” Brown says, “and the students who work there love it.”

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