• 07.20.20

    Newsday: New Bolla Market brings Tim Hortons coffee shop to Seaford

By Tory N. Parrish

A new Bolla Market has the piping hot stuff that keeps people excited.

Coffee, folks. Coffee.

A Garden City-headquartered chain of convenience stores and gas stations in the New York City metro area, Bolla Market just opened a Seaford location that is the retailer’s first to include a Tim Hortons coffee shop.

For those of you who just arrived to Earth recently, Tim Hortons is an extremely popular Canadian chain selling coffee and baked goods. In fact, it’s the biggest fast-food chain in Canada. There is only one other Tim Hortons on Long Island — inside an Exxon gas station in Westbury.

Expanding the Tim Hortons brand

“We do plan to expand the [Tim Hortons] brand pretty significantly in this market over the next year or so,” said Phil Hayes, chief operating officer for Bolla Oil Corp., which owns and operates 150 stores branded Bolla Market and distributes wholesale fuel  to 50 other stations.

Hayes declined to say whether Bolla has exclusive franchisee rights to open more Tim Hortons on Long Island. Restaurant Brands International Inc., the Toronto-based owner of Tim Hortons, did not respond to requests for comment.

But Bolla Oil’s plans for new stores include “15 to 20 over the next 12 to 18 months, with an outlook to expand the [Tim Hortons] brand throughout our Bolla Market chain,” said Hayes, who declined to say where the new stores will be located.

Founded by Harry Singh in 1989, Bolla Oil Corp. operates gas stations and convenience stores, auto repair shops and car washes and employs more than 1,300 people in the New York metro area.

Tim Hortons, though a strong Canadian brand, has struggled in the United States, especially against entrenched competitors like Dunkin’ and Starbucks, said David Henkes, senior principal at Technomic Inc., a restaurant industry research firm in Chicago.

“It has a different supply chain than its sister brands Burger King and Popeye’s, and challenges there have kept some growth lower as well, as costs have inched up,” he said.

Ranking among coffee shops

Still, among coffee chains with U.S. locations, Tim Hortons had the third-highest sales in the nation last year, $714 million from 715 locations.

Opened July 10, Bolla’s new 4,500-square-foot convenience store at 4030 Merrick Rd. in Seaford has 10 fuel pumps  and sells Shell fuel.

Its full-service Tim Hortons offers hot coffee, baked goods and frozen drinks. The location also has a self-service Pizza Hut, Red Mango frozen yogurt and Nathan’s Famous hot dogs.

All but Tim Hortons are located in some of the other Bolla Markets.  Some Bolla stores also have Burger Kings.

“We like the structure of the branded food. We think it has nice appeal and presentation for our consumers,” Hayes said.

Gas stations’ profit margin on fuel sales alone are slim — retailers typically earn between 50 cents and $1 per tank fill-up — so operators are increasingly adding amenities to their convenience stores to draw drivers inside, said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores in Alexandria, Virginia.

Nationwide, the average convenience store with a gas station gets 1,100 customers a day, Lenard said. Of those customers, about 250 go to the gas pumps and 850 go inside the store, he said.

In January, before the COVID-19 pandemic, about 52% of the 250 daily gas customers went inside the stores for some reason, including using the ATM, going to the restroom or buying food, he said.

There is about a 20% decline now in fuel sales because people are driving less during the pandemic, he said.

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