The Times West Virginian

July 14, 2013

Little General: Give customers what they want

Steak Escape Sandwich Grill is also within building

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

WHITE HALL — The Little General store in White Hall is trying to give customers exactly what they want.

This Sunoco gasoline/diesel station and convenience store opened on June 21 at 2395 White Hall Blvd., off Exit 132 of Interstate 79 on U.S. Route 250. The Steak Escape Sandwich Grill within the building began operations on July 8, said Brian Waugh, director of retail for Little General Stores Inc.

The convenience store has New River Gourmet Coffees and Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and features a F’real blending bar, which allows customers to make their own milkshakes, smoothies and frozen cappuccinos. The location includes a full kitchen, where the staff can make a variety of “On the Go” sandwiches, as well as a beer cave, movie rentals and more.

The gas station is equipped with five fuel pumps, and Shop ’n Save Perks Card holders can go to Little General to redeem their points and get discounts on fuel. An ATM is also located at the store.

Mark’s Sunoco gas station and wrecking service, operated by the Ash family, was formerly located on the property. When the site went up for sale, Little General used the opportunity to expand its presence into North Central West Virginia, Waugh said. Previously, the closest location had been in Weston.

He said Little General spent about six months demolishing and rebuilding its new location in White Hall. During the construction, the West Virginia-based company also took over three existing stores that became available in the area — in East Fairmont, Barrackville and Pruntytown, which are all Sunoco stations.

Steak Escape, based out of Columbus, Ohio, had 10 locations in West Virginia, but none of them were further north than Charleston. Waugh said the restaurant’s partnership with Little General has enabled it to bring its food services into this area of the state as well.

People have been anxiously waiting for the Steak Escape to open in the area, he said.

When owners Cory Beasley and Greg Darby took over Little General in 1999, they had 38 stores at the time. In the last 14 years, they have grown the company to 98 convenience stores — with 95 of those in West Virginia — and 14 free-standing restaurants, for a total of 112 locations. The company also distributes Exxon, BP, Shell and Marathon gas.

Any new convenience store that the business builds includes a restaurant on one side. If a customer is already stopping by a location to get fuel, it makes sense to also offer a food option, Waugh said.

“We try to provide everything to everyone,” he said.

Little General is the largest Subway franchisee in the state, with 30 locations, and has also partnered with Burger King, Arby’s, Taco Bell and Godfather’s Pizza. In addition, the company just became a Dunkin’ Donuts franchisee, and will begin building a few of those stores in the fall.

The business likes to be a part of the communities where its stores are stationed, and is a big supporter of West Virginia University and Fairmont State University. It raises money for charities like Make-A-Wish Foundation, the Children’s Home Society of West Virginia and Toys for Tots Foundation, and all that money stays within the state, Waugh said.

“Every cent that we make is pretty much reinvested back into building other locations within the state or supporting schools and other avenues in the state,” he said.

On July 9, the company held a grand opening celebration at its White Hall store with games and contests, free food and drink items, and $50 Little General gift cards for the first 50 customers. Travis Braden’s “Remember the Miners” NASCAR race car was on site, and West Virginia University men’s basketball head coach Bob Huggins and assistant coach Ron Everhart were present.

In addition, Little General presented a $25,000 check to Jerrod Calhoun, head men’s basketball coach of Fairmont State University, to go toward the men’s and women’s basketball programs’ theater room so the players can study game film.

Waugh said the grand opening event had a nice turnout, and the new store has been getting a positive response from the public. The store, located right off the exit along with other retail, is a very convenient location for customers.

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.