After only months of trading at their new forecourt site on the Park Road, Waterford, veteran retailers Brian and Siobhan Mooney collected the Forecourt of the Year (category one) title at the recent IFCR gala awards in Dublin…
Waterford couple, Brian and Siobhan Mooney were celebrating early success recently with their new Park Road forecourt site in the city after it took honours as Newcomer of the Year at the Ireland’s Forecourt & Convenience Retailer Awards in Dublin.
For Brian (50), it’s vindication of his decision to take on the site – one of three that he and Siobhan are now operating in Waterford. The couple did try to acquire the busy forecourt and shop when it previously came on the market about 20 years ago but on that occasion, they were outbid.
Then, at the start of this year, the site was on offer again and this time, the Mooney’s were determined to add it to their portfolio. As Brian revealed, however, the former Maxol premises had been allowed to deteriorate quite significantly in the months before the acquisition, leaving Brian and Siobhan with the prospect of a significant refurbishment programme.
The site itself was the third acquisition for the couple. They already owned two Top Oil-branded service stations on the Cork Road in Waterford – Holycross, which they have operated since 2006 and the Autoport Service Station, which they took on in August last year.
The couple have been in retail since the early 80s, operating initially from an elderly Maxol Station on the Dunmore Road in Waterford, which they had for 13 years, and later, from a bigger Maxol site also on the Dunmore Road, where they traded until 2006.
“We only opened the store at Park Road in March this year,” Brian told IFCR recently. “We’d taken it on a couple of months before that and at that point, it was a very dilapidated Maxol forecourt that had been closed for a number of months before that.
A “very significant five-figure sum” was invested to transform the old site into the award-winning business that it is today.
“We instigated a total refurbishment from ceiling to floor,” explained Brian. “And we changed the front elevation of the building which has brought about a complete change of character for the site, we’re very happy with the way it’s turned out.
The re-branded Top Oil site now consists of a four-poster canopy that covers a forecourt with capacity for eight vehicles at any one time. The site also boasts the full complement of forecourt services including a busy jet wash.
A significant food-to-go operation drives business inside the 1100 sq. ft. Mace store on site. Three full-time staff are employed here behind two one-and-a-half metre serve-overs offering a full hot and cold deli service with much of the produce prepared freshly on site.
“The food-to-go does very well for us,” confirmed Brian. “We’re on an arterial route here, we have two schools in close proximity and a large number of apartments and it very much drives business in the whole of the shop – what would you rather buy when you visit a forecourt, 50 euros of diesel or something nice to eat?”
Those customers who fancy something a little lighter have access to a fully-stocked Insomniac bean-to-cup coffee dock.
Elsewhere, the offering consists of a good mix of grocery, fresh and ambient stock. There’s no wine store on the premises, but Brian hopes to be able to offer Lottery facilities very shortly. The shop also offers the full range of electronic bill-paying service.
“Business has been good for us since opening but of course, there’s always room for some improvement,” added Brian. “I’d have to say it’s come in fairly close to our expectations but I’d like to see just a little more from it at present. We’re both fairly confident that within the next year, we will meet or exceed our targets, I think probably by the middle of next summer.”
The Park Road site is managed on a day-to-day basis by Shane Doyle, but Brian and Siobhan do their best between them to visit each of their sites daily.
“We were genuinely thrilled to win the Forecourt of the Year title,” said Brian. “We really weren’t expecting to do so well with such a new store, so it was a real pleasure to be named.”
The independent judges at this year’s IFCR Awards said of the Park Road site:
““Both the store and the forecourt were immaculately presented. The forecourt provided a full range of facilities and the store catered well customer needs. Staff were smiling and efficient, creating a great customer experience.”
As for the future, Brian said that the focus of the entire business will remain firmly on the practical aspects of customer service:
“I think it’s really essential that we maintain standards across the business and that’s one of our priorities going forward,” he continued. “Customer care, service, cleanliness of the premises and the products, the selection of goods on offer, all of these are central to good business practice we feel. I think they’re at the heart of any successful business and not only that, they have to be clearly implemented and managed properly by everyone, so that’s where our focus will be.”
And he added:
“I certainly am optimistic for the future, we have good businesses here, we’ve invested in them, we believe we know what it takes to ensure that they do well for us and that’s keeping us busy at present. I think the fact that we’ve been winning awards is evidence of how well we’re doing.”
Despite that success, however, the couple have no plans for major expansion in the near future:
“We’re very happy with the three existing outlets that we have, we want to continue to manage and develop these for the moment,” said Brian. “I’ve never regretted coming into retail, I’ve enjoyed all of it, it’s given me a good living and now I’m looking forward to seeing what the years ahead have for us.”