Having the best brands of gasoline and food and the best customer service is the Formula One for success at J & H Family Stores. With 50 retail locations in west-central Michigan around Grand Rapids and commercial fuel and lubricant distribution in the same area, J & H Family Stores is evolving and expanding to meet its customers’ needs.
“We own and operate 47 stores, and we have three additional ones that we own and lease,” President Craig Hoppen explains. “We have 65 open dealers on their own property.” J & H Oil Co. supplies those contracted site locations with products branded Exxon/Mobil or Marathon. “We have a commercial division as well that sells to trucking companies, farms and commercial haulers,” he adds.
J & H Oil’s two warehouse locations in Cassopolis and Wyoming, Mich., distribute lubricants, fuel, chemicals and other products with cash-and-carry and wholesale service. The company also delivers upon request.
“We just picked up three stores from our fellow distributor here,” Hoppen says. “They sold their retail. We’re always looking for acquisitions. We picked up another subjobber down south a few years ago. We’re actively looking for some expansion that way. We’re definitely looking to grow through acquisition.”
The three stores were acquired from Byron Oil. “One will be rebuilt and the other two will need some modifications,” Hoppen predicts. “We’ll brand them J & H Family Stores. We have two new sites of our own under construction right now.”
Both of those new locations are in Grand Rapids, one in the southwest part of the city and the other by a major highway bypass. One is being built on the site of a former bank and the other where a residence had been. “Both of these will have full Tim Hortons in them with drive-throughs,” Hoppen promises. “One is almost 8,900 square feet, and the other is 5,000 square feet.”
J & H regularly remodels or rebuilds its stores, but not on a set schedule. “Eventually, every building gets tired where the layout is outdated, but we try to stay with market trends on a consistent basis,” Hoppen says.
J & H Family Stores emphasizes its ties to the communities in which its gas and convenience stores are located. “Every month, we’ll pick an item and take the profits of that item and donate them to a pet charity that our store managers vote on,” Hoppen says. “That’s 12 charities a year.”
The Community Kickback program was started in 2009 to showcase and support local charities in western Michigan. “Then the parent company, J & H Oil Co., matches whatever proceeds are raised,” Hoppen says. Among the many organizations that have received support from the Community Kickback program are Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids, the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, The Other Way Ministries and the Special Olympics of Michigan.
Other charitable activities include a golf outing that raises funds for local organizations. “We more or less try to support the people that put food on our table everyday,” Hoppen says.
J & H has a number of strategies for the business in the future. “We’re always looking to grow,” Hoppen emphasizes. “We’re looking to become the employer of choice in our industry. We have a number of initiatives. We’re putting a lot of emphasis on growing the lubricant side of the business. We’re planning to grow our J & H Family Stores brand and make it a value in the community, not only by our offerings, but the things we do and the way we behave in the neighborhoods we serve. At the end of the day, I think we’re trying to run a respectable business and be an asset to the communities that we serve.”
Besides Tim Hortons, J & H Family Stores also carries the Subway brand. “We stay current with food offerings,” Hoppen declares. “We’re more of a branded franchisee. We pride ourselves on offering quality products.” J & H Family Stores does not rely on selling at the lowest price. “We live under the premise that we’d rather explain the price than apologize for the quality,” he says.
Hoppen stresses that J & H Family Stores has the brands and the people to deliver a high-quality customer experience. “Our people have a strong desire to deliver high customer service,” he asserts. “I know our people are the best in the marketplace.”
Obtaining those employees for the company’s planned expansion is becoming more difficult.
“We’re looking hard to add to our employees,” Hoppen explains. “There’s not a whole lot of unemployed folks in Michigan anymore. So we’re trying to appeal to those who are already working somewhere else and get them to switch companies. We are doing job fairs and a lot of outreach.” J & H has strong employee retention.
“We have a few folks retiring, and once in a while we lose one for one reason or another, but we typically do not turn over our own employees,” Hoppen says. Those employees are key to the company’s success, he emphasizes. “We go to market with a high degree of customer service and integrity,” Hoppen concludes. “We are a unique, family owned company in Michigan who genuinely puts people first.”