Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bedford Exxon become Bedford Gulf

The Bedford Exxon at 349 Great Road has become a Gulf. As you can see here, workers quickly replaced the old Exxon Signs with Gulf. The gas station recently become part of the Cumberland Farms Dealer Network.

Cumberland Farms bought close to 500 Gulf Stations in 1985. In 2003, Cumberland Farms purchased 200 Exxon Stations from ConocoPhilips. According to a Bedford store manager, Cumberland Farms is now in the process of converting most of the Exxon stations to the Gulf brand.

Although the name is changing, the convenience store will not undergo any major changes.

While the pumps have been changed over to Gulf Gas and some very minor revisions are planned, the Dunkin' Donuts will remain. The Gas Station is expected to be open the same hours (Mon-Sat 5AM-11PM and Sun 5AM-10PM) as bedfore.

Now that the Exxon name is available again, it will be interesting to see if the recently re-opened old "Citgo" station switches over to the Exxon or Mobil brand.

The last vestiges of the Exxon Station.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Verizon Wireless Store Opening in Bedford

A new Verizon Wireless Store is opening at 170 Great Road next to the Post Office in the Bedford Shopping Center (soon to be known as Bedford Marketplace) at the old JC Cleaners storefront. As previously mentioned, JC Cleaners closed on May 31st.

Verizon Wireless recently opened a store in Lexington Center and has several stores in Burlington. According to the Verizon Website, the new store is an authorized agent and goes under the name Zcomm Wireless. From looking at other Verizon stores, it appears likely that the store will be branded Verizon Wireless (interesting that the phone number is listed as 999-999-9999 - kind of ironic they are still waiting for a number). Most Verizon Wireless store locations are open from around 9 am until 9 pm Mon-Sat and 10 am - 6 pm on Sundays.

Bedford already has a Sprint/Nextel Repair Center at 9 Crosby Drive (although it's only open from 9am-5pm Monday through Friday) and a Sprint store just opened nearby at 40 Hartwell Avenue in Lexington.

I plan to have an update along with some photos of the interior shortly before it opens.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Another Update on the "Citgo" Gas Station

The full service "Citgo" gas station is under new ownership and is no longer a Citgo. The new owner, who also runs a gas station in Watertown and a few other locations, is currently negotiating with several gas station brands and hopes to convert over to a national brand shortly.

Along with the new ownership, improvements have already been made. While you used to have to wait for the attendant to run back inside to process your credit card, a new booth is located between the pumps so they can process it right away.

The prices at the new station are currently running about 15 cents a gallon less than the other stations in Bedford. I'm not sure if this is a result of the recent drop in oil prices, special "grand opening" pricing or a more overall aggressive pricing strategy. In any case it looks like more competition for Sunoco, Exxon and Shell.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Citgo Opens on Great Road - Again

The Citgo gas station at 105 Great Road is open again after being closed for most of 2008. The Citgo first opened in September 2007 after being closed for several years. This gas station has gone through many periods of closing which seem to occur whenever gas prices rise sharply. I'm not sure if the recently falling gas prices have anything to do with the station re-opening. Besides this gas station, the Northland Convenience Store at the old Gammy's General Store location is only a few days away from opening and is expected to sell gas as well.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

KnowFat Closes for Renovations - Reopens as UFood Grill

The KnowFat LifeStyle Grille at 347 Great Road briefly closed last week for renovations and a name change. It reopened on July 15th as UFood Grill. The business is part of a local chain with 5 other locations in Massachusetts (which are also in the process of changing their name). In addition to the Massachusetts stores, UFood Grill is adding locations in Chicago, California, Florida, Texas and Utah.

I recently spoke with Eric Spitz, Executive Vice President of Business Development for UFood Grill. I asked Eric about the name change. He mentioned that while they were happy with the food sales of the Know Fat restaurants, they felt the Know Fat name was self limiting as customers liked the food but many associated the name with foods they typically didn't enjoy. Eric explained how they did lots of customer research to come up with the new name and hope to attract a much broader audience.

While the general layout has stayed the same. The interior has been renovated and includes new seats and a cleaner more modern look. The restaurant no longer has a separate area selling protein bars and supplements.

The renovation took just over a week and included changes to the menu as well. The protein bars that were previously sold have been replaced with "Smuuthies" which can be enhanced with Whey Protein, Ginseng, Antioxidants, Bee Pollen and other supplements. Also new on the menu is UBerry which is tart soft serve yogurt. Frozen Yogurt has become increasingly popular in the last year or so with the introduction of new restaurant chains like Pinkberry and Red Mango popping up across the Country.

The "Smuuthies" are made with fat-free yogurt, fruit and berries and are available in a dozen different varieties.

Along with these changes, UFood has also added additional Vegetarian items as well as a few other entree items including a Bison Burger and a Falafel Roll-Up. The new menu no longer offers beer or wine.

Eric mentioned the restaurant currently has 36 seats but is working with the town to get that increased to 44. While the restaurant would be interested in offering outdoor seating it does not currently offer any. It does have a pickup window to which you can walk or drive to in order to pick up an order you previously called in.

The Sign for the Pick-Up window could be better designed. I suspect many customers are not aware of this option.

This is where you can pick up your order after you phone it in. A better sign is needed. There is no mention of UFood Grill at all.

The Restaurant still features a few breakfast items and is open 11am-8pm most days. The store currently has 20-25 employees. Know Fat had an existing loyalty program called "In the Know" that will continue with UFood. The loyalty program offers you 3% cash back on all your purchases. You get points with each purchase and once you reach 100 points, you get a $3 certificate off your next order.

Along with the new name, the restaurant has also retained George Foreman (former boxer and seller of the Foreman Grill) as it's spokesman. George will be visiting the Massachusetts stores (including the Bedford location) in September.

In addition to in store dining and take out, UFood Grill also offers catering for business and other events. Catering is handled by the local store.

The UFood Grill "catering van". In addition to the regular menu, UFood Grill can also offer custom menu items.

When Know Fat first opened a few years ago, they ran a lot of marketing promotions including Bedford Day to get a lot of people to try their food. This seemed to work well as the restaurant got pretty busy during lunch in just a few weeks.

After taking a look at the renovations, I took a look at some of the other restaurants in Bedford. Both Papa Gino's and Dunkin' Donuts seem like they would benefit from an updated look.