Revolutionizing convenience: how Weigel’s Stores stays ahead in a dynamic market 

Family-owned and ran since its inception, Weigel’s Stores Ltd (Weigel’s) is a renowned chain of convenience stores based in the State of Tennessee. Ryan McElroy, Director of Operations, provides a comprehensive overview of the business. “Starting off as a dairy farm in 1931, Weigel’s didn’t open its first store until 1958 when we launched a drive-through returnable milk jug store,” he begins. “In 1964, Billy Weigel opened our first walk-in milk store, which became one of Tennessee’s earliest convenience stores. Around the same time, Billy travelled to Washington DC to attend the National Association of Convenience Stores’ third convention. As Weigel’s continued to expand its presence, our walk-in milk stores transformed into traditional convenience stores. This year, the company is set to open additional locations in East Tennessee, taking us past the 80-store mark. Despite fierce competition from national and regional chains like Casey’s, Weigel’s is thriving thanks to its enduring relationship with the community. Our history is filled with Knoxville area firsts: Bill Weigel’s father introducing pasteurized milk to the area in 1935, pioneering the first Icee machine east of the Mississippi River, self-service gas pumps in Tennessee, and cappuccino sales in the state,” he continues. 

Inside one of Wiegels Stores
Data-driven technology 

Since the launch of its first store in the late 1950s, Weigel’s has significantly evolved to adapt to a dynamic market. “The retail and convenience industry is as challenging as ever, driving Weigel’s to make significant improvements across all areas of the business to stay ahead. To name a few examples, we have opened incredible new stores across multiple markets to propel our growth into untapped territories. Additionally, we have completed several remodels to expand our food programs, upgrade our facilities, and elevate our multi-faceted loyalty program. We now also place an even greater emphasis on training and development for our field teams. Notably, we have embarked on an exciting journey with the construction of a state-of-the-art commissary facility,” informs Ryan. 

Among these various strategic initiatives to fuel its growth, Weigel’s has also embraced data-driven technologies such as dashboards to enable its stores to access near real-time data. “One of my main priorities is to ensure our district and store leaders have the most readily available, accurate, and actionable information to make data-driven decisions. In line with this commitment, we have made great strides in recent months by incorporating in-house ‘dashboard’ style reporting. This system provides our district leaders with dynamic models and graphs that can be adjusted with a simple click. I have worked closely with our IT director to create, maintain, and publish these reporting tools through a web-based portal. As a result, district leaders are now able to instantly interpret results, review trends, capitalize on opportunities, and gain insights all the way down to the item-level in any store. Likewise, Weigel’s entire leadership team is focused on technological improvements throughout the business. We have bolstered our already strong loyalty platform, incorporated communication channels to share announcements and updates with all levels of the field team, upgraded several fuel pumps with interactive touchscreens, introduced kiosks in our large food kitchens, and we now offer home delivery services to our valued guests. This marks an exciting new era at Weigel’s,” he highlights. 

People and product

Turning to the core of Weigel’s business, Ryan discusses how the company upholds the quality of its items when working with suppliers. “All food sourcing begins with plant visits by our director of food innovation to ensure suppliers adhere to all certification requirements. This same process extends to retail items, along with organic products certified by the Food and Drug Administration. Notably, we have formed a promising partnership with Springer Mountain, enabling our delicious chicken products to be processed and delivered to our stores within just one-to-two days. Furthermore, our dairy farm operates with remarkable efficiency, boasting a 24-hour turnaround from milking to processing and stocking our shelves,” he says. 

Beyond valuing strong relationships with its supply chain, Weigel’s deeply cares about its employees’ wellbeing. “In today’s unstable socioeconomic landscape, our field teams face genuine difficulties that can cause headwinds and pressures. To address these concerns, we have worked diligently over the past few months to ensure that every level of our field teams feels appreciated and valued. As a result, a complete overhaul of our compensation and benefits structure was undertaken, granting bonus opportunities to each store employee. Moreover, we offer a tuition reimbursement program, matching contributions to 401(k) plans, and have enhanced our vacation offerings. These initiatives are designed to support our exceptional field teams and empower them to be successful in both their personal and professional endeavors,” Ryan adds. 

Before concluding our interview, Ryan draws attention to a new development taking place at Weigel’s. “We are excited to announce the construction of our state-of-the-art 110,000 square-foot commissary in Loudon, Tennessee, in partnership with CMC Design Build Inc. The new facility will enhance our food offerings across all 79 of our convenience stores in Eastern Tennessee and will support our Weigel’s Kitchen foodservice program which provides fresh, high-quality options like fried chicken, pizza, and salads. This collaboration marks a significant milestone in our journey, aligning with industry trends and underscoring our commitment to meeting evolving consumer demands,” he ends.