What Do I Need To Know Before Renovating My Gas Station?
Gas King, Medicine Hat Renovation – Part 2 of 2
What do I need to know before renovating my gas station? It’s a question independent retail fuel operators in older locations often struggle with.
In our previous blog, we shared the story behind the renovation of a Gas King location in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
To get a sense of the challenges and decisions owner operators face during the renovation process, we caught up with Scott Sibbet, VP of Retail Operations for Gas King. Based on his recent experience, we asked Scott what advice he had to share with other retailers considering a renovation of their own.
What were the primary reasons behind your decision to renovate? What were your goals?
We knew that the location needed significant work to bring it up to today’s standards. The location has good ingress/egress and is situated in a high traffic area.
Is a renovation a hard decision for most independent retailers? What obstacles are holding owners back?
If you own a store, you are typically interested in renovating it and making it up to date. The biggest thing holding you back is probably the expense of the renovation. If you have never done a renovation, you probably don’t realize all of the associated costs.
The next obstacle is knowing where to start and understanding the overall renovation process. For example, how long will it take?
How did you go about setting your initial budget?
We’ve completed renovations in the past, so had a good idea what to expect. We use formulas to calculate what our expected sales will be and how long it will take us to get to our targeted sales numbers and recoup our costs.
What was the most important factor in choosing a design & engineering firm to work with?
We wanted a firm that was able to offer a complete, full-service solution – from drawings to sending out an RFP for a contractor to inspections.
With older buildings, there can be unexpected issues that aren’t apparent until the renovation begins. You had to replace a rotted front wall, which was beyond the original scope. How can you prepare?
A renovation rarely goes as planned. There always needs to be a contingency fund set up for the unexpected.
How did your design & engineering firm help you achieve your vision?
They were able to show us different versions of the design so we could pick and choose. In addition, we already have our brand, so the color schemes were somewhat set to start with. We work with a designer out of Calgary who had a significant role in the overall look of the store. It is a collaborative process.
What did they do to make the process easy?
Our design & engineering partner, CTM Design, was available when we needed them. If we needed advice with engineering, etc., we were able to get that from them. Everyone on their team was great to work with and had the knowledge and expertise that is needed for a project like ours.
When unexpected issues arose with the building, impacting the scope of work and budget, how did your design & engineering firm collaborate with you to find a solution?
They tried to give us options that would fit our budget, then we could make a decision on how to proceed.
Was it important to address the underlying issues with the building, even though it added to your cost?
All things need to be done right even if that means spending more than what was originally allocated.
What lessons did you learn from this build?
Allow more time than what is budgeted and expect the unexpected.
What advice would you have for others renovating an older building?
Consider all of your options and understand what your long term goals are. A renovation can be challenging and expensive, but the rewards can be even better.
What has been the customer response to the new renovation?
Every customer that I have talked to says that the store is “beautiful” and “way better than before.”
The change is quite remarkable. How will it make your business stronger?
I believe that everyone likes to go to a bright new store. When you feel good shopping at a certain location, odds are you will return to that location over and over again.
Open For Business
Having a good relationship with your design time is essential to a successful renovation experience. L to R: Brent Morris (Owner, Gas King), Anna Rybak (Lead Designer, CTM), Patricia Pan Davilla (Project Manager, CTM), Scott Sibbet (VP Retail Operations, Gas King)
Designed To Attract
The design team was able to build on Gas King’s strong corporate identity to create a cohesive look and feel. Ample lighting was build-in to make customers feel secure at all hours.
Keep It Light And Bright
Before: The low 8’ ceiling, plain utility shelving, and fluorescent lights made the store feel dated and closed in.
After: Through the use of bright colours, recessed pot lights, modern tile, accent lighting, wood design elements, and modern flooring choices, the design team made the store appear bigger, warmer and more inviting.