A reason to stop

Stanley’s new Pinnacle center designed to bring community together

STANLEY – When Pinnacle decided to expand its fuel and convenience store on U.S. Highway 2 in Stanley, the cooperative wanted to give the community much more than just a place for a quick stop.

The new travel store and Cenex station can still get you in and out in a hurry but you might want to linger to shop, dine or simply relax by the fireplace.

“We wanted to do more than build a big store. We wanted to build a place where people wanted to sit up front and relax,” General Manager Jim Wznick said. “We like to see the locals in here.”

An area set aside for dining or gathering seats 64 – and it’s come close to reaching that capacity, which is exactly what the cooperative hoped to see. The goal is to bring out the coffee clubs.

“We are trying to make a place that’s welcoming,” said Todd Busche, operations manager. “We were really trying to make a place here that’s a gathering for the community. It’s comfortable when you walk in here. We just want to make sure the community knows this place is for them.”

The expansion has been a two-year project. It began in 2016 with upgraded fuel pumps, particularly the diesel fuel islands, where diesel exhaust fluid was added.

In 2017, the structure was expanded and remodeled. Pinnacle doubled the size of the facility to 20,000 square feet.

“It was a major project. This was a pretty big deal. It’s one thing to build a ground-up structure. It was another thing to try to stay open while you are remodeling,” Wznick said.

Customers continued to be served despite the challenges.

“We appreciate their patience because it was a long year, especially for our employees. They had to put up with a lot,” Wznick said.

So there was a lot of excitement when the new store officially opened Feb. 19. Except for some additional concrete to be poured on the facility grounds this summer, the project is basically completed.

The modernization included the launch the first week of March of a phone app that let patrons access their Pinnacle Perks rewards program, which includes promotions and 4 cents off each gallon of gasoline. The program still remains available through rewards cards for patrons who wish to continue carrying them.

While keeping up with technology, Pinnacle also wanted to give customers a sense of the past. A wooden fence, windmill replica and signage all serve as nods to a time and place where life’s pace was a little slower. One patron offered a freight wagon to put on display to add to the atmosphere.

“If you create that atmosphere, people feel more comfortable to shop,” Busche said.

Cedar shakes that line a portion of an upper wall area display cattle brands of local ranches. Wznick said Pinnacle invites area producers to submit their brands or photos of rural life, such as harvest or branding time, to help decorate the new center.

The building’s new front porch ties into the western theme. Wznick said it lends curb appeal but it also will be functional for outside sales or seating in the summer.

The store also features an open, linear layout that lends a spacious feel. The layout increases the sense of accessibility in a store where there’s a lot of variety to access.

“When our customers walk through that front door, we wanted them to see all the way to the back. That was a requirement,” Wznick said.

In early March, Pinnacle’s Vaquero’s Western Grill opened with a state-of-the-art kitchen to prepare homemade meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including its signature salsas and sauces and a kid’s menu. The fare ranges from omelets to burritos to burgers. Meals are take-out or eat-in, and there also are grab-and-go offerings.

Having a kitchen enabled the store to increase its variety, such as offering barbecued ribs and rotisserie chicken. The kitchen also has enabled Pinnacle to emphasize “fresh” and “homemade,” which isn’t what one typically finds in a convenience store, Busche said.

The restaurant is particularly popular with travelers, truckers and oil-field workers. The store added a third shower and has a small lounge area where people can enjoy the fireplace and watch television. It also carries oil-field clothing and offers overnight parking. It’s part of catering to the needs of oil-field workers and truckers.

“A huge part of our business is oil workers,” Wznick said. “But our goal when we did this was to try to re-introduce some products that we took out several years ago and get back to more of a community store.”

Busche said they wanted to get back to their roots in meeting the needs of rural residents. Farmers and ranchers can find twine, fencing materials and a variety of other farm and ranch needs, along with outdoor wear and a selection of hardware. The store carries an expanded section of name-brand western wear and stocks Stanley Blue Jays branded merchandise for local fans. The cooperative continues to expand its overall inventory based on customer demands and preferences.

Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the store also carries flowers, jewelry and gift items.

“There should be a little bit of something for everybody here,” Wznick said. “It’s a pretty diverse audience we have here and we have to cater to all of them.”

As a convenience store operation, he added, “We offer a little bit more for them than probably anybody else between Williston and Minot.”

Busche said Pinnacle wants to be the place to stop for anyone traveling through the area.

“We are trying to create that destination on Highway 2,” he said.