Pull into any gas station to fill up and grab a snack, and chances are your options will be potato chips, sugary sodas, and one of those hot dogs shriveling under a heat lamp.
Unless, that is, you’re near Plymouth, MA. Around there, you can swing by Alltown Fresh, a fancified convenience store which opened in January of this year and offers high-quality coffee, kombucha on tap, house-made healthy food and smoothies, WiFi, and even a small selection of groceries.
Oh yeah, and you can fill up your car, too. Alltown Fresh’s parent company is Global Partners, a fuel company that owns and supplies roughly 1,000 gas stations throughout the Northeastern U.S. But Alltown Fresh doesn’t position itself as a gas station that happens to have pretty good food. “We want to flip that paradigm,” Alltown Fresh’s SVP of Retail Operations Ryan Riggs told me over the phone. They want their store to be a place you seek out for its food and beverage options first, and to fill up on gas second (or not at all).
Yes, there are already gas station convenience stores with QSR’s like Subways or Dairy Queen’s attached, but Alltown Fresh’s offerings — with greens-filled smoothies, Moroccan chickpea bowls, and quinoa porridge — are next-level healthy. But for those who are loyal to their road trip junk food, don’t fear. “You can still get your Snicker’s,” Riggs told me. The unhealthy food just won’t be the only option.
Choice and customization are key to Alltown Fresh’s business plan. Customers order fresh food on a kiosk touchscreen inside the convenience store, and can even customize toppings and sizes. The store also has a limited selection of groceries like dry pasta and tomato sauce, as well as a bulk section where people can stock up on nuts and grains. In future, it would be a smart play to add meal kits to the mix so commuters could stop by and swipe a kit for dinner along with their cold brew or smoothie. Alltown Fresh also has grab-and-go options like bowls and sandwiches ready for quick purchases.
The prices are higher than typical gas station fare, but for what you’re getting, they’re actually pretty good. The Green Smash (avocado, chia and pumpkin seeds on toast) is $6, and a Chili Chicken grain bowl is $13, and a small latté is $2. Considering that a latté from Starbuck’s can set you back about five bucks at this point, that’s a steal.
The company is also prioritizing plastic-free packaging, and uses chiefly recyclable, biodegradable options for the prepared food section. Obviously it’s a lot harder to get rid of plastic when it comes to the brands on Alltown Fresh’s shelves, especially when a lot of them are packaged snacks and bottled beverages, but Riggs said that they were trying to offer as many plastic-free options as possible.
As someone who has been on her fair share of road trips and often ends up subsisting off of diet soda and Cheez-Itz, I think Alltown Fresh has hit on a great concept. The store combines a few trends we’re seeing in consumer dining preferences: personalization, healthy food, and, above all, convenience, in a way I haven’t seen before. The closest comparison I can make is The Goods Mart in L.A., which is also trying to redefine convenience stores as sustainable and healthy — but they’re more bodega than gas station stop.
Riggs told me that they’re hoping to open more Alltown Fresh locations in 2019 and 2020, all of which will be in New England. Now if they could just make it to Seattle so I can fuel up on more than just a bag of sour cream & onion chips on my next road trip, it would be much appreciated.