T&M Express in Park Rapids had its official ribbon cutting on Monday afternoon, after completing its first remodel since the store was built in 1991. Originally, the location was franchised as a Food 'N Fuel.
"When that franchise went away we had to decide if we wanted to do another franchise or do our own thing," co-owner Nancy Lewis said of the family owned business that underwent some rebranding but no remodeling since it was built.
"It was due for a remodel. We wanted to be able to feature more food and with the layout of our store before and the limited kitchen space it wasn't conducive to that," she added.
The project, which was completed by Vercon Inc. out of Menahga, broke ground in October.
According to Lewis, the convenience store remained open during construction and the project stayed on schedule and on budget.
Once they sat down with the contractor and began planning out what they wanted to accomplish, the remodel became bigger than they initially had planned.
"This is what we wanted to do and we said if we're going to remodel, let's do it right," Lewis explained. "Everything went great from my perspective."
Lewis added that one of their main goals was to be able to have more food offerings and healthier choices.
By expanding the kitchen space they would be able to provide healthier fresh options. The staff is currently being trained on making fresh subs which will be made to order. T&M staff will be baking bread in addition to preparing sandwiches, wraps and salads; they will be providing grab and go options as well.
Lewis explained that they now have additional space to bring in new items that are becoming trendy in the snacking industry, such as protein based and gluten free snack options.
"We definitely want to offer what our customers want and not just what they used to want years ago," she said. "We still have Snickers but you can also get a cup of veggies to go with it."
T&M has also expanded baking offerings as well with freshly made muffins, pastries, donuts and gourmet rice krispy bars.
The drinks coolers stayed in the same location however they were made taller so there are more offerings in the cooler as well.
"We're open to having our customers say, 'Hey, there's this one drink that I really like can you get it in? Or, there's this candy that I like,'" Lewis said. "We're open to people suggesting things for us. Usually we can find space for it if we can get it."
Take and bake pizzas are still offered at T&M and customers can call and order a pizza to be made as well.
According to Lewis, one of the things they wanted to offer was the option for customers to order subs and pizza later into the evening, so they added additional staff.
Lewis started working for the family business when she was teenager, when she graduated from college she started working in the the office and now with her parents' retirement she is now a co-owner along with her parents and her husband.
Her parents purchased the Nevis T&M Express in 1978 which was then a service station and has now become a convenience store. They also bought the Akeley location in 1986, the Park Rapids store was built in 1991 and Northern Convenience in Park Rapids was purchased in 2001.
"We always want to be improving our stores," Lewis said about future plans to remodel one of their other locations. "Down the road we'll continue to do improvements, but there's nothing scheduled right now."