something different, mac and cheese soup has been
added to the menu.
Food is critical to small stores, Benson believes. It’s
the reason customers make the trip from the pump to
inside the store. “Independently owned stores don’t
make a lot of money on gas. If they come inside and
buy one thing, I make more off that than gas.”
Desserts to Die For
You can’t have a great meal without a great dessert.
“Denise Wilbur makes the pies and cheesecakes.
Peanut butter pies fly out of here; it’s peanut butter
filling with chocolate ganache,” Warford described.
Everything in this country store is made from
scratch, not just the desserts. It’s important to
customers, and the extra effort is important to the
Hancock Grocery team. “People know if it’s not from
scratch. Oh my goodness, yes, scratch is different,”
Warford explained. “It’s the texture, the look and the
taste.” Customers can tell the difference. In fact, one
customer ordered 46 molasses, chocolate chip and
pumpkin whoopie pies and sent them to New York
to her son.
The “C” Means “Community”
A critical part of the community feeling comes from
the staff. Benson has eight employees at Hancock
Grocery, and he’s learned that finding the right fit
for the store can be a challenge. “We’re fussy about
who we hire. I’d rather be shorthanded than hire the
wrong person,” he said.
Throughout Benson’s career, family has also been
part of the c-store community. His children, Parker,
20 and Courtney, 19, have been involved with his
stores since they were little.
He and Catrina often think about slowing down.
“Someday, when we retire, Parker will take over
the businesses,” Benson said, but he continued in
the next breath, “I’m interested in another store.
We talked about retiring, but what are we going
Al Hebert is the Gas Station Gourmet and
showcases America’s culinary treasure—gas
station cuisine. TV host Hebert shares these
stories and on occasion, a recipe or two at
GasStationGourmet.com. He is a regular
NACS Magazine contributor, bringing foodservice ideas to readers.
Clockwise from top left: Made-from-scratch food brings customers
inside the rural Hancock Grocery; Everett Espling has been working
at the store for more than 30 years; store owners Tim and Catrina
Benson; the store’s famous mac & cheese; longtime-employees and
cooks Lynn Warford (right) and Denise Wilbur (left)
WHAT’S OLD IS NEW
Many stores go for the newest high-tech fuel pumps, but not
at Hancock Grocery. “We installed new pumps in the Franklin
store,” owner Tim Benson said. Yet when the fuel supplier
suggested that the pumps at Hancock Grocery be updated,
he had a different idea. He believed that even gas pumps
could bring customers back to a simpler time. “Older people
like to see nostalgic things. They want to see things they
saw when they were young,” he said. “It’s old fashioned and
down home. Changing would not be good for business.” The
old pumps remained.