New associate members cover a range of services and products, including equipment, energy, gaming, tobacco and food waste.
Four associate members joined in March. Originally started in San Antonio, Texas, nearly 40 years ago, Facility Solutions Group (FSG) has since grown to one of the nation’s largest lighting distributors and electrical contractors. FSG helps businesses build new electrical and lighting systems, and it services and retrofits old systems. With their “Around the Nation, Around the Corner” philosophy, the company offers the resources of a nationwide provider with the feel of a local business.
Based out of Washington, D.C., Juul Labs is on a mission to transition the world’s billion adult smokers away from combustible cigarettes, eliminate their use and combat underage usage of its products. Their product is an Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS), designed and intended to be an alternative to combustible cigarettes for adult smokers. The company believes that noncombustible products like ENDS, also known as vapor products, can offer adult smokers a potentially less harmful alternative to combustible cigarettes and, in so doing, reduce the harm associated with tobacco. Juul Labs does not want any non-nicotine users, especially those underage, to try our products, as it exists only to transition adult smokers away from combustible cigarettes.
PLM and Associates, LLC, is a manufacturer’s representative firm in Easton, Pa., that has been in business since 1997. Founder Phil Mele is an alumnus of the Saint Joseph’s University food marketing program, which also is a PFMA associate member. PLM carries food display equipment lines that keep food appropriately warm, cold and dry.
Venture Gaming LLC is a terminal operator of Video-Gaming Terminals (VGTs) in the state of Pennsylvania. Its mission is focused on keeping establishment owners compliant and maximizing their revenue. Venture Gaming will handle consultation, installation and service of VGTs in truck stops throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
In April, 412 Food Rescue became a PFMA associate member. 412 Food Rescue was founded in response to the disconnect between food waste, hunger and environmental sustainability. This nonprofit company, located in the Pittsburgh area, rescues primarily perishable food items and provides it to its nonprofit partners for distribution. 412 Food Rescue delivers food to organizations that serve those who are experiencing food insecurity.
Thank you to all our members for your support!
What are your top three legislative priorities in 2021? My top three legislative priorities for 2021 are sustainable recovery from the pandemic with a specific focus on job creation, education and agriculture/environmental issues.
More specifically, as we come away from the pandemic, I want to be sure to restore our colleges and universities to their full capacities in terms of learning as well as addressing learning loss and education funding from grades K-12. With agriculture issues, we need to focus on food insecurity and improving our food system. I also hope to focus on how we can promote a more sustainable economy and environment.
What are the important issues facing your district? The most important issues facing the 11th senate district are our recovery from COVID-19, lingering unemployment issues and education equality issues.
Where do you shop locally for food? I visit multiple grocery stores, both large chains as well as some of the regional stores. I go to farmer’s markets and, as soon as produce stands are open, I shop those as well. I’m constantly amazed and gratified by the ample availability of high-quality food products in our markets.
Even before the pandemic, I noticed a trend of more families cooking meals at home. ...I’m hopeful this lasts as sharing a meal is good for families, however one defines family. It’s great bonding time.
What is your favorite vacation destination, and why? Colorado, as I love the landscape and outdoor activities available, but primarily because my daughter and grandchildren reside there.
What are the biggest challenges for grocers in your district? Recovering from the pandemic, most certainly the biggest challenge was the unpredictability of the food supply and preparing for unimaginable disruptions. Consumer education is also a challenge as prices have gone up. Education to help consumers understand these issues would be useful.
Even before the pandemic, I noticed a trend of more families cooking meals at home. It’s likely that trend will continue and many of our markets are responding by having a wider array of fully prepared meals for consumers to take home and reheat. I’m hopeful this lasts as sharing a meal is good for families, however one defines family. It’s great bonding time. But it also presents a new challenge for grocers. How will they respond to these new consumer habits?
What are your biggest challenges and successes as a legislator? The greatest challenge of being a legislator is getting your bills considered by the full assembly and working across the aisle to promote legislative initiatives. I consider the recent expansion of the hemp industry as one of my greatest successes, as well as legislation to help individuals returning to the workforce after incarceration obtain occupational licenses. I’m also proud of the work I did to help Pennsylvania voters more easily and conveniently exercise their right to vote.
What is your favorite food or meal to cook? Anything with ground turkey. I’m a miracle worker with ground turkey! I love to cook, and I focus a lot on ethnic recipes. I have a bookshelf full of cookbooks and a drawer full of clipped recipes that I cycle through. I have a magnet on my kitchen refrigerator with the message “Cooking is love” and I truly believe that.
What do you like to do for fun? Gardening, traveling, reading and, honestly, working as a State Senator. This job is something that I really enjoy doing. It’s an honor to be able to serve my constituents.
It’s been said that you can’t know where you are going if you don’t know where you’ve been. After a tumultuous year in the convenience store industry, it can be challenging to picture what lies ahead. But Paul Rankin, vice president of Country Fair, Inc., said that’s where the company turns back to what it knows best.
“The company mission statement is Country Fair Cares,” Rankin said. “We really try to support our team members, our customers and the community. Those are really the focus.”
That focus has helped the company excel. In 2019, Country Fair was named one of Forbes top mid-size companies to work for. Country Fair operates 72 c-stores in Northwestern Pennsylvania, Western New York and Eastern Ohio, and is listed as 16th-largest employer in Erie, Pa. The company also is a huge contributor to the community through its fundraisers and food bank donations. The relationships established with team members, customers and its community have helped Country Fair manage a year like no other.
As the world shut down last March, daily commutes and routines changed. Like the rest of the c-store industry, Rankin said Country Fair experienced a reduction in foot traffic, fuel sales and foodservice. As major employers and schools in the area kept employees and students home, Country Fair took a hit, especially during its busy breakfast traffic.
“We had a significant decline on customer count, which was difficult, because one of our major commodities—foodservice—was reduced significantly. I think for almost any convenience store in Pennsylvania, that’s a large share of their business,” Rankin said.
According to the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing (NACS), fuel sales decreased 26.1 percent from 2019 to 2020 when a quarter of the U.S. workforce began working from home. Prepared food sales decreased 7.4 percent across the industry last year as new pandemic regulations impacted self-serve stations.
But there was a bright spot. “We saw wine sales skyrocket, and beer sales did exceptionally well,” Rankin said, noting that PFMA was vital in getting alcohol sales to their stores.
We wanted to comply with all the safety, and that was a great deal that our team members carried out... And they did a great job.
To revive foot traffic, Country Fair moved quickly on adapting new safety protocols. “We’ve always believed in a lot of customer interaction,” he said. “The thing we had to do was just concentrate very early on putting plastic shields around our checkout areas, we were early on masking, and we went to almost full sanitation of everything.”
Although these changes provided new challenges for workers, Rankin is proud that the company experienced very little turnover. “We were real happy that we were able to retain our team fairly well. We had our lowest turnover last year of about 40 percent, which, for our business is a pretty low number,” he said. “I was just so pleased that so many of our people believed in us, stayed with us, and dealt with it. …We wanted to comply with all the safety, and that was a great deal that our team members carried out, but boy was that a tough one. And they did a great job.”
Country Fair is now bringing back many of the products and services they had discontinued in 2020, some with modifications. Thankfully, Country Fair’s customer loyalty is helping them to rebound. Its commitment to customers and to the community for the last 56 years is helping immensely, Rankin said.
“We try to do a lot of things for our customers. We’re very customer centric in any way that we can be, and it helped us a lot,” he said. “Obviously, versus 2020, our numbers are great, dealing with what the pandemic is. But 2019 becomes the key number. I think we’re finally hitting 2019 sales again.”
The c-store industry is competitive, and the pandemic has accelerated many conveniences driven by technology. Rankin said they plan to look at incorporating more technology and delivery options in the future. “The phone has become more and more key.”
For now, Country Fair is concentrating on what makes them different. “Part of what makes us distinct is Country Fair Cares. …Country Fair cares about three things—team members, customers and community—and that’s what makes us different from other people.”
Committed to the community
Erica Logsdon, director of communications and public relations