Zoom-ing Into the Future

This gas station, c-store and car wash offers healthy choices inside and out.

Zoom-ing Into the Future

July 2021   minute read

By: Sarah Hamaker

Zoom takes the health of its customers and environment seriously. “Healthy for the environment and healthy for our customers—this is a store that cares about being green,” said Biede-Tsion Fesseha, manager at Zoom in St. Louis.

The genesis of Zoom had its roots in a vision by its founders “to be a healthy solution in the neighborhood,” Fesseha said. “And we’re definitely living up to that standard with our fresh salads and sandwiches and other healthy fare, both inside and out.”

Green on the Outside

The greening of Zoom starts with the exterior of its building. “We’re a solar-powered gas station, convenience store and car wash,” he said. Solar panels on the forecourt canopy are the main source of the gas station’s energy.

“We’re the first in the St. Louis area to have almost all of our electricity from solar panels,” Fesseha said. The glass-on-glass solar panels, manufactured by Prism Solar Technologies, have the capability of generating 35% more energy per watt than traditional modules, as well as offering dependable performance in low-light conditions.

The store also has charging stations for electric vehicles alongside its traditional gasoline pumps. “It’s a small market, but we have seen the number of people using it grow since installing those EV chargers,” Fesseha said.

We’re the first in the St. Louis area to have almost all of our electricity from solar panels.

Another way Zoom lowers its environmental impact is through its commitment to buy local. “What better impact on the environment than having low miles for delivery?” Fesseha said. “We try our best to buy local for in-season produce and other goods. It’s really not that difficult to make those partnerships.”

Zoom connects with local businesses through Good Natured Family Farms, an alliance of 100 family farms within a 200-mile radius of Kansas City, Missouri, not far from St. Louis. Local products on Zoom shelves include jams, jellies, fresh produce, honey and pickled items.

While Fesseha conceded that the local price isn’t always the least expensive, Zoom’s customers appreciate the freshness of the products and what the store is trying to do. “We’ve gotten good feedback from customers about our selection and the way we work with local vendors and farmers as much as possible,” he said.

Top and middle: Zoom lowers its environmental impact by buying from local suppliers whenever possible. Healthy meals to-go, including sandwiches, salads and wraps, are made fresh onsite. Bottom: Zoom is always having a sale, says manager Biede-Tsion Fesseha, and the key is not to wait until a manufacturer offers a discount for an in-store deal.

Green on the Inside

Within its 7,000 square feet, Zoom offers a wide variety of healthy snacks, as well as the more usual convenience store fare. “We have high-end snacks, like baked chips and pretzels,” he said. “Our size allows us to have a diverse amount of products, so we’ll have $1 bags of chips, as well as $6 bags of chips.”

The store stocks bottles of kombucha and has a large selection of liquor. “We make sure our liquor prices are comparable to warehouse prices, and we do a very good business because of that strategy,” Fesseha said.

For example, a typical bottle of wine might sell for $10 at a similar retailer, but he lowers the price to $6 to compete with liquor chains. “We’re always having a sale, especially in our wine or beer section,” he said. “When I offer sales or special deals, we move more product, so I try to do that as much as possible across as many categories as I can.” The key is not waiting for manufacturers to offer discounts for an in-store deal. “We often do our own two-bottle special because we’ve seen the increases when we give our customers those incentives to buy now,” he said. While he does participate in manufacturer deals, he has come up with his own system of rotating sales to keep customers coming back for more. In addition, Zoom focuses on healthy meals to-go, including sandwiches, salads and wraps made fresh onsite from locally sourced food. “For example, our wings are baked, not fried,” Fesseha said. The grab-and-go case has salads, sandwiches and fruit cups of pineapple, melon or apple that sell for $1. “We want to make eating healthy affordable and delicious,” he said. Above all, Fesseha said Zoom is about making people feel welcome. “We want them to enjoy the fact that we have a clean store and friendly employees,” he said. “It’s a pretty simple thing, but that’s what we aim for each day.”


Bright Ideas

Like many convenience stores, Zoom in St. Louis partnered with a delivery service to meet customer demand. But instead of delivering prepared food, Zoom teamed up with Drizly to bring liquor directly to customers. “We’re a border store near the Illinois-Missouri state line, and with prices higher in Illinois, we wanted to provide an option for everyone,” said Biede-Tsion Fesseha, manager at Zoom.

The partnership started in January. “It took a while to set it up, but we saw immediate results,” he said. One of his goals for 2021 is to expand that delivery to include foodservice and store products, as well.

See More!

Ideas 2 Go showcases how retailers today are operating the convenience store of tomorrow. To see videos of the c-stores we profiled in 2021 and earlier, go to www.convenience.org/ideas2go.

Sarah Hamaker

Sarah Hamaker

Sarah Hamaker is a freelance writer, NACS Magazine contributor, and romantic suspense author based in Fairfax, Virginia. Visit her online at sarahhamakerfiction.com.

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