Munch & Co is particular highlight for the store,Proprietor Frank Boyd tells UG
Just months after the latest addition to the Boyd family’s several Mace and Centra grocery outlets in Co Antrim – the Mace at Main Street, Toomebridge – proprietor Frank Boyd reports success.
He says that the convenience store and busy forecourt has gone from strength to strength. The trade generated by the in-store deli and food to go facility, Munch & Co – complemented by premium Frank and Honest Coffee – has been phenomenal.
“When we opened in April, following a £200,000 investment using local contractor, Frankie McFall of Brookevale Interiors, we actually created 30 new jobs for the area,” says Frank. “The former small independent has benefitted hugely from the new Mace ‘store of the future’ imagery which has also seen the premises increased in size from 800 to 3,500 square feet.
“Our new, larger Mace store in Toome can compete for the over-1800-square-foot category in the 2019 Store of the Year competition, and I’m targeting entry for that as a priority while ensuring that our original Toome facility, at Roguery Road is just as successful.”
The family business is no stranger to success. Toomebridge has been crowned Store of the Year in the less-than-1800-square-foot category for the past three years.
Its sister facility, Centra at Junction One, Antrim town, was also named Best Newcomer in the same awards, while the recently acquired Islandbawn Centra is also doing very well too.
He explained that the new look fascia and striking imagery of Mace Toomebridge ‘store of the future’ is a huge plus in building business at what is a very busy location, which is now even more so given the ongoing construction work on the M22 extension.
“While we are probably split 50/50 between forecourt sales and food/grocery volume, it is amazing that since opening in April the food to go and small café/sit in trade has risen by over a third and is still growing as part of the non-forecourt business,” he says, but this is helped by several factors.
“Toomebridge is at a crossroads in more ways than one these days and, while regular traffic hold-ups are part and parcel of the multi-million-pound extension of the motorway towards the North West, ironically it brings us in extra business.
“The sit in area is regularly packed by construction workers and while that is welcome, the ‘silver lining in the cloud’ because of regular traffic diversions actually funnels even more trade our way,” he says.
“Today, we are a substantial employer in a rural area with our four stores between them accounting for about 90 full- and part-time staff, as well as being full time work for me and my brothers Michael, Gerard and Tony.”
Frank himself is very busy with his shop open from 6am (7am on Sundays) usually seeing a queue of hungry workers and commuters at Munch & Co and food doesn’t stop until well into the evenings, as people are heading home as well.
“I have to say that we have completely transformed the local convenience market for people in Toomebridge and the surrounding areas.
“We also use local produce and suppliers where possible, with Lough Neagh Fisheries as one prime example, both supplying retail fish and the adjacent fish and chip shop.
“Indeed, our Main Street location is developing well already, with not only the chip shop beside us, but also a large Fishing Tackle and Outdoor Wear facility to help attract passing trade,” says Frank.
MACE itself is a draw; customers have noticed the bold changes to the look and feel of the store with new branding using the contemporary Mace colour palate, creating a striking, fresh and modern store frontage.
“But now, it not only features the brighter, new look, but also the latest in energy-saving technology from environmentally-friendly fridges to state-of-the-art kitchen equipment,” says Frank.
“In fact, we were one of the trailblazers, being about the earliest Mace stores to acquire the new imagery. Inside, the store showcases the latest thinking in retail with concepts including beverages, with Frank and Honest Coffee being one of the largest coffee brands on the island of Ireland.
“Munch & Co is brilliant. It is a new hot and cold deli, which features a tasty selection of sandwiches, wraps, baguettes and speciality focaccia bread options filled with fresh meats, cheeses and salad and we have a tempting array of sauces to give your lunchtime a lift.
“As part of our commitment to healthier communities, we have an excellent range of salads and salad bowl options and a burrito bar that are also proving a hit with customers.
“Our hot food offering is really varied with something for the busy tradesman who needs a hearty breakfast on the go, great variety for office workers looking for lunch or an evening meal solution, and all underpinned by a dedication to offering the best quality produce, prepared fresh.
“Customers can also avail of a new café-style seating area which is perfect for catching up with friends.
“We are not a family to rest on our laurels; we want to continue to ensure we provide the best experience for our customers.
“The model for convenience retail is changing. Consumers are more discerning than ever; alongside their regular convenience shopping, they increasingly want a sociable experience, in comfortable, stylish surroundings with a focus on fresh, quality food offerings – our new store has all of this and more.
Gerard says: “We have three chilled and two ambient deliveries weekly from Musgrave-Supervalu-Centra (MSVC) and it all works extremely well – as did the original fit-out. “MSVC is second to none,” adding that he wouldn’t franchise with any of the other wholesalers, naming local representative Clare McKindless as a particular plus.
“Thanks to their advice, we have two coffee machines that are on the go virtually non-stop and have identified a lucrative sub trade in cooked meals to go (or sit in) with hundreds of Sunday dinners flying out of the shop every week from the hot food bar, with festive dinners an especially lucrative trade in December,” says Frank.
The shop also more prosaically offers coal, logs and heating oil to take away and the Pay Point and Lottery are draws too as well as the standards of newspapers and milk and bread and other necessities.
Frank said there are no ‘trolley shoppers’ as yet, but he has proved that their niche is in the convenience market and more dramatically in the food to go sector.
“People don’t want to have to find a parking space – as they would in supermarkets – navigate their way round sometimes crowded aisles,” he says. “They want to get in and out as quickly as possible, and with our three scanning tills, that is just what we deliver.”
Of course, it is all a far cry from the first forecourt that Boyd’s opened, back in 1964.
Frank’s grandfather, Cahal Boyd went from building chapels across Ireland as a clerk of works into the forecourt trade: “In those days, forecourts were just that – petrol and diesel and some accessories – with little or no groceries,” says Frank. “However, Cahal saw potential and took up the opportunity of the original site in Toome – now our other local MACE – when it came up and the rest is history.”
It is certainly a long way from when he took the chance of moving from construction to retail trade back some 60 years ago, but it all developed from that single petrol pump-based business.
Now a fresh chapter in the story is being written and the whole Boyd family is involved in making it an even greater success than it is already.