New Centra with Go forecourt – Conway Brothers Shared Venture near Cookstown
Northern Ireland’s 100th Centra Store in Mid-Ulster – Makes for a nice round number
When the Conway brothers did their research and decided that the Centra name was the one for them, they’d no idea it would turn out to be a milestone for the Musgrave symbol group too – it just turned out that way – but it made for good PR and helped put the new store firmly on the map.
The new enterprise is the shared venture of three brothers – Peter Conway, the eldest – and twins Daniel and Declan.
The family had owned the land for around fifteen years, where once there was an old service station, which was knocked down a couple of years ago.
“It was the ideal opportunity for a new project” explained Peter.
The Centra is coupled with a Go forecourt. It is easily accessible from the dual carriageway, and the forecourt has ample space including two lorry bays.
“It’s on an A road – so there’s plenty of passing traffic.”
Clearly Peter had done his homework and spent time researching the best symbol group for the site.
“Centra ticked all the boxes. It wasn’t just that the site secured plenty of passing trade, Centra has the high emphasis on its deli offering and coffee” said Peter.
Daniel Conway, Peter Conway, Martin Conway, Declan Conway and with Musgrave Managing Director Trevor Magill.
It was this particular emphasis on the deli that really sold the Centra concept to Peter Conway.
“The deli is the focus of the place – the shop builds itself around the successful deli – it is a special offering. The deli takes priority and everything else is there to support it. I travelled around the country, back and forth, looking for the details that make a difference – I wanted it to be right from the start.”
This is the first venture in to forecourt retailing for the enterprising family. The brothers had other interests in AirBnB, property, and a range of other businesses – but they had no idea that their forecourt would be the one hundredth Centra store.
“It was around 18 months in the planning – but spread over three years. The actual building took just over a year. There’s a lot more to opening a forecourt than you’d think – all the groundwork, the tanks – there’s a lot of spade work to be done first. However we had some excellent support and expertise – in particular, Raymond Armstrong who helped put the forecourt together. He really went over and above the call of duty to make sure it was all as it should be.”
Although having the site ready for electric vehicle chargers wasn’t an option just now – that’s something planned for down the road.
“The deli, the Frank & Honest coffee, and the Green Kitchen were all part of the Centra brand and we wanted to focus on that. The Green Kitchen is a lovely healthy offering, of chopped salads and the deli features everything hot and cold that hits the mark.
“We’re also particularly proud of the Nugelato ® ice cream boutique – it provides some theatre with its chocolate fountain. We consider it quite a coup to get the Nugelato band instore. There are around seven or eight outlets In Northern Ireland so far, but not many in forecourts.
“Nugelato has 60,000 followers on facebook – people are happy to queue to get this perfect ice cream – then post the pics on social media.”
The Nugelato brand is the brain child of Michael Nugent (hence the brand name – Nugeleto) and as Peter explained, he’s very protective of the brand name. and as Peter explained, he’s very protective of the brand name.
“Michael Nugent is very passionate and protective of his Nugelato brand, which is something we feel lends itself to perfectly fit our store ethos” explained Peter.
“It started in Newcastle and is now being rolled out. They deliver their fresh vanilla ice cream directly to us – a fresh vanilla mix in Nuggy pots which are then made up instore. It really has gone down very well for us – especially in the evenings. People are literally queued out the door.”
Certainly ice cream has been one of the big food trends throughout the pandemic – with people opting for a walk or a drive with the ice cream treat to top it all off. The ice cream brings people in store – all the grocery and chilled offerings are all available too, along with the usual services from a forecourt and convenience store such as the lotto and so on.
The 100th Centra at Dunman, Cookstown was lucky enough to avoid the worst of lockdown.
“A lot of our family businesses did have to shut down throughout Covid so this was a completely new family business, a whole new venture for us. With all the restrictions, it was like a security blanket – knowing we were putting together something special that would remain classified as an essential business. We were also fortunate that lock down gave us plenty of time to focus.
“We are a business family and myself and my brothers have grown up in the family businesses – but this really was a brand new venture for us.
Do it right, do it once
“We knew if we were going to do it that we wanted to get it right – my mantra is ‘do it right, do it once’. There were a few blips along the way, it wasn’t all plain sailing but there was nothing that couldn’t be fixed.
“We’ve also been delighted with the support from the local community – both the support for the business and the support for the family and the wider community. There’s a great community opposite. The people are just delighted with their new store and forecourt – the support has quite literally been overwhelming.”
The new forecourt and store is also providing employment for 35 local people. The big success stories in store have been the ice cream and the deli.
It’s an exciting time for Musgrave too which is investing £12 million in its Centra and SuperValu stores this year.
Will their be more forecourts and convenience stores from the Conway brothers in the future?
“We’re young enough and hungry enough so any opportunities that come up, we’ll go for it.”
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