A Welcoming Tradition

The Common Man Roadside downsized its successful welcome center plaza into a c-store concept.

A Welcoming Tradition

January 2020

By: Sarah Hamaker

When a restaurant company branches out into the convenience store industry, it’s no surprise that the focal point will be the food. “We took a restaurant approach to The Common Man Roadside Market & Deli, with a heavy emphasis on food made-to-order,” said Brad Pernaw, managing partner at The Common Man Roadside.

The market in Plymouth, New Hampshire, opened in October 2019 and is a scaled down version of The Common Man Roadside at Hooksett Welcome Centers along Interstate 93, also in New Hampshire. Alex Ray, founder of The Common Man Restaurants, and Rusty McLear, managing partner, developed the welcome centers five years ago.

“We’ve had a lot of fun with the rest areas, which have all local brands and no national chains,” Pernaw said. “We decided to create the smaller version in towns and partnered with Irving Oil for fuel.”

An Uncommon Concept

The company took the overall idea of the Hooksett Welcome Centers and pared down its 20,000 square feet into a 5,000-square-foot, restaurant-centric convenience store. “We have traditional convenience store fare like you’d see in any c-store with chips and sodas, but we added a grab-and-go food area, make-your-own coffee bar, a café that serves quiche and cinnamon buns, plus a whole made-to-order food counter,” Pernaw said. “We also brought in our popular fast-fire pizzas, which cook a fresh pie in under two minutes.”

The company runs its own foodservice concept rather than having a national or regional brand. “People in general are looking for high-quality, freshly made food and beverages,” Pernaw said. “We feel confident there’s a real need for that type of foodservice at a convenience store.”

We’re bringing our restaurant background into this store to provide a different approach to the traditional convenience store.

The driving force behind the convenience store is the company’s roots in the hospitality industry. “We’re bringing our restaurant background into this store to provide a different approach to the traditional convenience store,” Pernaw said. The store features open kitchens, customer seating and arched ceilings painted as a blue sky with clouds. One unique attribute of the store is a living room area with a couch and chairs grouped around a gas fireplace.

“People’s schedules are compressed, but people are still looking for good quality food,” he said. At The Common Man Roadside Market, ticket times average five to six minutes for its made-to-order menu items. “But while people want to be in and out quickly, we also wanted to provide an inviting place for them to hang out. There are not many convenience stores out there where you can go and have dinner, but we’ve created a great alternative to cooking at home.”

The Common Man Roadside stores all have a distinctly Granite State theme with mill-like structures and granite façades. Inside, the market aesthetic is like an old barn with modern conveniences. “Some of the touches we have include salvaged barn boards, beams and a tin roof that came from an 1800s-era barn,” Pernaw said.

Uncommon Connections

The Common Man Roadside Market & Deli features a made-to-order counter, where a fresh pizza is cooked in under two minutes, and the decor of the market resembles an old barn, with salvaged boards from an 1800s-era barn completing the look.

The Common Man Roadside Market engages its customers on social media, and the entire company supports charitable endeavors. The store also connects residents and visitors with New Hampshire-made products. “We’re very proud to be from New Hampshire, and we welcome local artisan products through New Hampshire Made,” he said.

Given its hospitality roots, “we work every day with our staff to be welcoming to our customers,” Pernaw said. “We provide a different level of service than you expect from a convenience store.”

That service starts from the top. “Alex, Rusty and myself are all very hands-on,” Pernaw said. “We know what’s it like to work the line because we do work the line. We know what it’s like to work the register because we do work the register. We’re with the team every day, and we don’t lead from afar.”

Construction on a second The Common Man Roadside Market & Deli in Manchester is underway, with an expected opening in the spring of 2020. Overall, Pernaw wants customers to “be blown away by our hospitality” at The Common Man Roadside Market & Deli. “How we treat our guests from the moment they enter until they leave is what’s going to contribute to our success in the long run.”

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.