Describing the last quarter of the year at High’s as busy is an understatement. Meghan Mattern, advertising and social media manager for Carroll Motor Fuels and High’s, has a packed schedule and is constantly on the road.
But it’s a “busy” that she loves because—as neighborhood stores—her days are filled with events that invest in the communities they serve. High’s holds numerous fundraisers, Christmas tree lightings, breakfasts with Santa and an annual Manager Summit among other events that give back to its neighborhoods and employees.
“We try really hard to create a positive culture,” Mattern said. “We put our best foot forward. Even at the corporate level, we really try to be an example.”
High’s, a new PFMA member since October, is a Maryland-based convenience store chain known for its high-quality food service. Although most of its 54 stores operate in the Baltimore, Md., area, they also have locations in Mount Joy, Columbia, Lititz and Emigsville, Pa.
With a history that dates back nearly 100 years, High’s first started as a Mid-Atlantic ice cream store chain that eventually evolved into convenience stores. The hand-dipped ice cream and shakes are still available in stores today, featuring popular flavors like Heritage Strawberry, Mad Cow Fudge and Butter Pecan. High’s made-from-scratch ice cream is definitely a draw for customers, Mattern said.
“It’s almost nostalgic. It’s easy to build off nostalgia. Local customers look forward to the ice cream and eggnog,” she said.
In fact, it’s not unusual for customers to drive a few hours with a cooler to pick up their favorite sweet treat around the holidays. Previously, High’s operated stores in the Virginia and Washington, D.C., areas, and several past customers still make the trek up.
In addition to its ice cream, High’s offers a variety of popular foods at most locations—such as hand-breaded fried chicken, craft pizzas, premium coffees, breakfast sandwiches and more—with expanded menus soon coming to all stores.Convenience stores continue raising the food service bar, and High’s is all in—they recently debuted a premium jumbo lump crab cake sandwich and a pit beef sandwich at select locations.
“It’s always interesting to see what c-stores will come up with and are willing to try,” Mattern said.
Beyond quality food service, High’s stands out because of its people, Mattern said. The High’s team provides friendly service with a smile. “We have a great talent acquisition team that spends a lot of time training our managers. They work very hard to empower them.”
The family feel and team environment is authentic, she said, and it was a huge benefit during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. When reflecting on the challenges of the past 18 months, one of Mattern’s coworkers said, “There will always be challenges. It’s nothing we can’t overcome as a team.”
“We would not have gotten through it without each other,” she added. “COVID opened our eyes to that. We really have to work as a team if we want to succeed.”
Although COVID presented plenty of problems, it also provided new opportunities. Gas stations and convenience stores sometimes find it hard to shake the stigma over cleanliness issues, Mattern said. So High’s Stores took an extra step to earn a new Safe Shop Assured™ Certification—a direct results of the pandemic.
C-stores can earn the certification after completing a 10-point checklist of essential safety measures. High’s Operations team worked diligently to earn the certification, Mattern said. A diverse board of retailers, suppliers and industry experts ensure that the stores are well maintained, clean and ready for customers. “We take pride in our store conditions. It’s definitely something we try hard to let our customers know.”
What gets Mattern most excited is the work they accomplish for the community. One of her favorite projects is the Keep the Change Program. The round-up campaign benefits Central Pennsylvania and Maryland foodbanks. In the month of November, the program raised $13,000.
“We’re thrilled with that. We’re proud of our managers for making that happen.”
For more than 30 years, Carroll Fuel and now High’s raised funds for Johns Hopkins Children’s Center through an annual golf outing. This past year, the outing raised $30,000, which was then matched by the company.
Mattern said High’s also contributes to the Red Cross for disaster relief, created care packages to distribute to area hospitals, supported local schools and held a friendly ice cream sundae building contest between local firefighters and police officers. This time of year, store managers look forward to hosting a variety of holiday festivities in their communities.
Whether working through challenges, trying new things or collaborating with the community, Mattern said it happens because the company invests in its team and surrounding neighborhoods. It’s an environment that the customers can feel, too, and one they are happy to bring to Pennsylvania.
“Family here is huge. Family is important, and our atmosphere reflects that,” Mattern said.