cLient story

MAPCO Express

How MAPCO is Modernizing C-Store Design in the 21st Century

How MAPCO is Modernizing C-Store Design in the 21st Century

Boasting more than 3,000 employees and 340 company-owned convenience and fueling retail stores located throughout the southeastern United States, MAPCO is known for providing a convenient location for on-the-go customers. From high-quality products and services, MAPCO has a little something for everyone that walks through the door. Whether it’s a hot cup of coffee on the way to the office, fuel to top off a gas tank, or a healthy snack to make a road trip more enjoyable, MAPCO prides itself on being its customers’ destination for “a better break.”

A Mutually Beneficial Partnership

When MAPCO first initiated a partnership with HFA, its leadership team began exploring new, more modern designs for their convenience stores. Not only that, but MAPCO was also very motivated to redefine its brand identity as well. MAPCO’s commitment to quality products and services had not changed, but the MAPCO team wanted customers to encounter a fresher, sleeker design the next time they walked through the doors.  

To accomplish this, MAPCO needed to partner with firms that could develop a new design that not only modernized the c-store experience for its customers but was also cost-effective enough to scale throughout the region.

Setting Standards from Day One

Before we could move forward and help the MAPCO team scale across their home region, we knew that we first had to go back to the basics and create a standardized design document. This document was vital as MAPCO began to show interest in pursuing a prototype program, and from our experience working with prototypes, we knew consistency was critical to great success. This comprehensive document allowed us to streamline the design process from store to store and kept us on track regarding timing and budgets.  

“Having all disciplines in-house made the entire process of creating and coordinating a standardized document much easier. Not just for us but for MAPCO, as well. And it’s one of the reasons why they came to us in the first place. We’re able to provide convenience to the client in that they don’t have to deal with multiple firms or channels. The result that MAPCO received was more than what they expected from previous firms that they worked with,” said Phillip Luu, Team Lead/Architect at HFA.      

By following this set of guidelines from the beginning on every project, MAPCO found that they could move faster throughout the production timeline and were confronted with far fewer change orders and project derailments. This commitment to consistency allows the MAPCO team to open stores more quickly, which translates into serving more loyal customers and establishing greater brand loyalty.

Modernizing C-Store Design for the 21st Century

Once we were able to simplify procedures, we were able to look at how we could continue providing the MAPCO team with the modern look and feel they desired while consciously choosing more cost-effective materials without sacrificing quality. From our team’s perspective, this is where cost reduction efforts became an invaluable piece of the puzzle. We were able to look at the designs and provide cost-effective alternatives for certain design aspects that may have proven cost-prohibitive at scale. This meant our team had to become intimately familiar with the ideal look and feel MAPCO was hoping for and then seek out innovative solutions that allowed the same aesthetics but could be translated across new builds and remodels.

“Whenever the first few new stores were constructed, there was really no time to celebrate. MAPCO was ready to take the next step and that was value engineering. They finally had a design that everyone felt good about and could stand behind, but it came at a high cost. Was it possible to minimize costs while maintaining the identity or character defining elements of the modern design that they loved? Multiple meetings occurred with MAPCO to look at every aspect of the building and site for potential areas of cost savings. Options were presented and systems/material investigations were completed. This process is still ongoing, and the design has been refined ever since.”

Luu continued, “Some of the items agreed upon have been implemented in their current new stores and renovations, but the goal is to complete the remainder of the value engineering early next year and implement all the changes into a new prototype design and roll it out soon after. The more cost reductions that can be accomplished by HFA, the greater opportunity MAPCO has in reaching their goal of opening more stores and providing their products and services to even more customers.”

Within the convenience store industry at the time, the tides were already beginning to change. Gone was the “one-size-fits-all” approach to c-store design, and with that departure came the need and desire for more modern, exciting experiences within the “neighborhood” convenience store. With the update in design, there was a greater demand for healthy offerings, higher-end coffee bars, grab-and-go food, and more to satisfy customers. This new approach to the c-store model allowed the perfect opportunity for MAPCO and others to redefine how products were merchandised, making them more esthetically pleasing and, most importantly, easier to shop.

The process to revitalize and redesign the MAPCO experience was ultimately successful for a few reasons. First, and most importantly, based on our decades of experience within the c-store and fueling industry and the inherent challenges we have learned from along the way, we were able to apply our proven thought leadership and help guide the team in the right direction. In doing so, several mentorship opportunities flourished within the studio, providing organic growth and further professional development for all involved.

Speaking of teamwork, our team was able to come together and showcase our ability to provide both architectural and engineering services, a genuine multi-disciplined approach that MAPCO sought out because of their need for a “one team” mentality and constant, collaborative communication. Our team found that continual contact with the client made for a much smoother process, as they were able to work through challenges in real-time before they became significant derailments of the project timeline. We were also able to use this open line of communication and resulting strong relationship to help our clients even more by providing advice in other areas of HFA expertise as well.  

What’s Next for MAPCO Express?

As the convenience store industry continues to grow, and as design trends evolve with it, the way we can support MAPCO will continue to develop in the future. Our team is excited to continue assisting the MAPCO team in their desire to continue scaling throughout the Southeast while maintaining the strong commitment to quality that their customers know and love. Only time will tell what is next for this partnership and we stand ready to support in any way that we can, relying on the dedication and commitment to project delivery excellence that drives us every day.  

To learn more about our work with MAPCO Express, feel free to contact Phillip Luu, AIA, NCARB, Team Lead/Architect. You can contact him at
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