Junction 14 tops the board!
A truly deserving winner, the 2014 C-Store of the Year Supreme winner was named as Texaco/Spar Express, Junction 14, Mayfield, Monasterevin, Co Laois. They also took home the Forecourt of the Year accolade. Fionnuala Carolan spoke to manager Gavin Moran about the impact the win has had on him and his staff and to find out how he came to be the manager of the top c-store in the country
16 January 2015 | 0
The winning store, which was opened in June 2011, is owned by local businessmen Donal and Liam Fitzpatrick and managed by Gavin Moran. Like many of the new motorway service stations, Junction 14 has a number of brands trading under one roof. While the fuel side of the business is supplied by Texaco and the convenience element is under the Spar brand, there is also a Supermac’s fast-food outlet and an Insomnia café inside. Successfully amalgamating all these brands and training staff to be able to work interchangeably can be no easy feat.
The day we visit, it feels like the place is thronged yet Moran explains that this is only what they would consider to be “moderately busy”. He says that the site is actually overtrading and no one would have realised back at the opening in 2011 just how successful this venture was to be.
Moran runs this place with precision and pride. And he should be proud as it is a testament to him and his staff that they manage an operation of this scale to such high standards. Employment at the store has grown from 45 at the opening to 145 today and there are an average of 5,500 transactions per day. The saying ‘build it and they will come’ certainly applies here.
Opening the store
Moran has been with the business since day one and was excited from the onset about the challenge of opening this new site. “I’d done a revamp and a relaunch but never a complete new opening. Never a greenfield site. I was given 45 staff I had never met and we had to get to know each other. From the original crew that started with me, all of them are either supervisors or managers now.”
The store was so busy from day one that they have already extended the premises, facilities and the car park and have hired over 100 extra staff.
Moran explains how he was able to find really good staff. “A lot of guys who I had worked with previously were out of work because of the recession or going back to college so I got a lot of CVs in. One of the girls I used to work with was in here one day and I was asking her how she was getting on and she said she couldn’t get a job anywhere. I said to her, “get me a CV”. She emailed me her CV that night and she started the following Monday as a cashier. Some months later she went for a promotion for a site supervisor position. When she was interviewing for that she started to talk about her marketing degree from DIT and we hadn’t realised that she had that background. She said she hadn’t been able to find work in marketing after college. The owners said they wanted to utilise her skills and she started working part-time in a marketing role. Now she works full-time in marketing with two days here and three days in the owner’s other business so it has worked out great.”
Being in a position to develop people’s careers is important to Moran. He does this by running a successful trainee management programme in the store.
“We run our own trainee site management programme,” he explains. “This is our third year running it. Staff can see a long term career when joining the business. Because most staff are from the local catchment area, it’s a great opportunity. During the recession a lot of people took local low paid jobs just to be working. I had accountants, I had teachers, I had hairdressers, I had beauticians, I even had a jockey. My entire Insomnia staff are all ex-beauty staff. You’re providing another opportunity for local people.
“Some people want to go in, do a job, get a wage and go home. And you need people like that because not everyone can be a manager. But if someone is showing flair and an interest, it’s great to be able to nurture that and bring them on.”
Moran is a firm believer in the importance of strong communication. To ensure this happens Mondays are mostly taken up with meetings with his section managers and site managers resulting in the whole team being informed and on the same page. Moran says that it creates a better working environment and there is a better chance of identifying issues before they become problems.
Years of hard graft in retail pre-empted this position for Moran. He started his retail career at just 16 when he took a weekend job at his local Centra in his hometown of Ballynamore, Co. Leitrim. This led on to a position in a SuperValu in Cavan town where he worked for Sean Tarpey, the owner of two SuperValus in Cavan and credits him with giving him great opportunities. “Sean started me out in my retail career and he said he would give me a trainee management position. I went from being a trainee manager to being an assistant manager to being a section manager with him within five years. I learned so much from him during that time.”
After years working in a number of SuperValus from Longford to Kilcullen and Portarlington to Monastervin in assistant management roles, Moran finally got the managerial position he craved when the CEO of Tougher Oil Group asked him to interview for the Newhall Station in Naas. He says that this is “where I cut my teeth on fuel really”.
Two years on from this, his first encounter with the Fitzpatrick brothers came about. They were just on the cusp of opening the Junction 14 site and were looking for a manager. “The Fitzpatrick brothers, Donal and Liam, asked me to come over for a chat,” Moran says. “They said if I was interested in coming on board I should leave my CV in and that everyone was going to be vetted the same way and if I was lucky I would get it and if not, I wouldn’t. It gave me a good feeling about it all and I felt the whole set up was extremely professional. I did two tough interviews and I really wanted this job as I got a feeling this was going to be something special. I was over the moon when I got the job.”
The Fitzpatricks are “very hands on” as company directors, according to Moran. “The two of them meet with me every Tuesday. Donal had the retail background with Spar in Monastervin. They are 60 years in business in the local area. Donal is involved in agricultural machinery and Liam is hardware. It’s a big family business. They are very involved and important to the local community and have created huge local employment,” he explains.
The busiest days for the business are during the summer when the GAA matches are on in Croke Park. Junction 14 has been ear-marked by coach drivers and motorists as an ideal pitstop on the way to and from Dublin. This has created a great deal of business for them, Moran says.
“Once the big GAA matches start, we could have 30/40 coaches a day, extra traffic and your usual traffic. Buses start arriving from 8am. We run split shifts on those days in order to have enough staff to cover the rush hours. Coming home from the matches in the evening, they all arrive at the same time. The guys in Supermac’s would be ready for it. We hire extra toasters, extra machines and put extra staff in. It becomes a conveyor belt. You learn what you have to do to get through it.
“Some new staff can get very overwhelmed when we get hit with a number of bus loads all at once. It can be crazy but the experienced staff know to just put the heads down and get through it. Newer staff sometimes gets a bit frazzled by it all.”
Support from BWG
The high quality fresh food offering is what keeps a lot of people coming back to the store. They have a full industrial sized kitchen and a group of chefs keeping the food fresh and varied all day long.
Confectionery minerals and take-away coffee are huge sellers and Moran relies on extra deliveries from BWG to service the demand. “BWG were able to increase my delivery to three times a week. When they built Kilcarbery, they knew what they were doing. I really enjoy working with the BWG team. They really let you be a retailer.”
Moran sits on the Spar Retailer Council and has an avid interest in the brand and how it’s developing. He says that the council takes up a bit of time but that it is worth it. This genuine interest and love of the business is evident in the way this store looks and how it is run. You couldn’t run an operation like this without the kind of enthusiasm and energy that Moran emanates.
Speaking about the night of the C-Store Awards, Moran says he was genuinely delighted and surprised in equal measures when they were named as the Supreme winners. “I’ve been to a lot of award ceremonies and we’ve won a few along the way but never before did I get a pain in my stomach because of shock. Genuinely hand on heart I didn’t think we would win it. I remember driving up and I thought I’d really like to get Forecourt of the Year but I just said we’ve put our best foot forward and that’s all we can do. You go and you hope and you aspire and in the back of your mind, you’re hoping it will be you. But if you don’t, it’s a good night out and you have to enjoy it. To win was just a fantastic feeling.
“The one thing I wanted to say and I did manage to say through all the excitement was that the win was down to the team. All I am is a leader and you are only as good as the people you are leading.”