CSD: The Coffee Cup Hotel
By Erin Rigik
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion
is a summary of an article from Convenience Store Decisions magazine.
are known for providing a myriad of services, but could your stores house customers
for the night if the weather turned bad?
Coffee Cup Fuel Stops, which operates
eight 24-hour locations in the Dakotas and Wyoming, is no stranger to hosting
overnight guests at its Summit, S.D. location, where winter storms have been
known to catch commuters off guard.
In the nearly five years store manager
Nannette Nielsen has worked at Coffee Cup’s Summit station, which sits at the
intersection of two busy highways, snowstorms that force travelers off the
road and into the store have been par for the course. The most severe storm
struck in April 2008, when 24 inches of snow forced about 200 customers to
spend the night at the store after a nearby bed and breakfast reached its capacity.
got to the point about 2 p.m. on a Friday where you couldn’t see outside,”
Ms. Nielsen said. “It was one of those storms where I think they predicted
it, but people thought it wasn’t going to get so bad, so there were still a
lot of people out on the road, and they started stopping at our store because
they couldn’t go any farther. For the rest of the afternoon and the evening
people just stopped and this is where they stayed.”
Soon, snowplows were even
called off the roads and I-29 was closed. Luckily, the c-store is well adapted
to winter visitors and was ready to respond.
“We have a couple little casino
lottery rooms, so those were pretty full. People slept on the floor, in the
aisles,” Ms. Nielsen noted. “The fire department brought extra blankets for
people so they could get comfortable and sleep. We have shower rooms for the
truckers, and we had one bigger shower where we put a family on the floor,
and in a couple other showers we put some elderly people, tried to get them
This winter, the Summit location is prepared to snap into action,
should a similar storm require its hospitality.
To prepare for the storm season,
the store stays well stocked with supplies that might be needed in a pinch,
including plenty of windshield wiper fluid and automotive items. It has a stash
of blankets on hand and keeps its grocery items well stocked. The store also
makes sure its foodservice program is ready to feed a large influx of customers.
Summit operates a deli, a hot food program including hamburgers and Hot Stuff
The most important task when taking on customers for the night is trying
to make everybody feel safe, warm and comfortable. “We try to keep spirits
up because everybody is down,” Ms. Nielsen said. “You have to keep the spirits
up. And have plenty of product on hand.”
What do you think of Coffee Cup Fuel Stops’ makeshift emergency hotel?
Can other retailers, even major chains, be doing more to prepare for
and help customers with emergencies such as unexpected snowstorms?