What Happens when a Valero doesn’t become a Circle K?

Today, we’re taking a quick look at a gas station in an unusual situation- a former Valero Corner Store that was not selected to be converted to Circle K. This location was built in Fredericksburg, TX in 1985. Based on the exterior features, it seems to have been a Corner Store from day one. Diamond Shamrock’s rural stores contained far fewer services compare to their urban counterparts, but they were still comparable to their ever expanding competitors. After a series of take overs, mergers, and sell offs, what was once Diamond Shamrock’s Corner Store concept was sold to Circle K.

One year after the sale was completed, the first Circle K conversions began in 2018. As this began so did divestment of locations such as a failed Stop n Go prototypes, Corner Stores that were too close to existing Circle K locations, and many other stores that just did not fit the new image the company was aiming for. As such conversion from Corner Store to Circle K was extremely slow. While the remodel process was hinged around updating the stores, the biggest change was obviously the branding. As of 2021, there are still some former Corner Stores in the Houston area that operate as Circle Ks but have not received new exterior signage.

While the changeover took place, former Corner Store locations continued to operate as normal. The parent company, CST Industries, still produced private label goods to be sold in stores, while cups, lids, etc.. continued to say Corner Store. As more stores became Circle K, the private label products were dropped, and the Polar Pop branding was applied to cups and soda fountains. The sign still said Corner Store but this was a lobotomized version of the old store. By 2020, a change had to take place, and this Corner Store is a perfect example of what happened when a store wasn’t selected to convert.

The exterior of the convenience store is completely unchanged- except for the updated signage. As you can see from the outside, this was a very small store. Using the pictured pickup as reference, the building is about three trucks long.
These gas pumps are a Diamond Shamrock dead giveaway. The center number with the circular border was unique to them. Notice that the wide format double ad holders are still in place. This was a problem towards the end of the Circle K changeover in Houston with many spots going blank.
As the Corner Store brand was originally owned by Valero, their logo was combined together where possible. As the the gas station is still selling Valero-branded gasoline, no effort was made to cover up the Valero logo.
The blue and brown paint and Corner Store decor were all still in place inside. Notice the former Corner Store sign behind the chef’s hat on the wallpaper. Not every store covered that up. The store was in the process of being restocked by one of the two employees when I was there, which explains the mess.
This chip section would normally be setup for Corner Store or Circle K products. Obviously, without any affiliation, corporate branded products were replaced.
The signage above the coolers actually dates back to Diamond Shamrock. It was added during the Corner Store transition.
This long shot of the store shows about 2/3rd of the total space. This location was smaller than a normal Corner Store but was not the smallest I’ve visited.
The product selection was on par for what you’d expect to find in a Circle K. One thing I did find that felt out of place were the hats behind the cash register.
This is actually an updated Circle K condiment holder, meaning that this was replaced or added after 2018 when the transitions began.  The condiments were not stocked at the time due to COVID.
A quick shot of the counter shows another somewhat unusual feature. 2 liter bottles and boxed sodas in a small cooler. The POS system had been upgraded in the past few years to accept chip cards and seemed to be similar to other Corner Store systems.

 

All in all this turned out to essentially still be a Corner Store in all but name. Looking at county records it seems that this location along with a few others were sold to the franchisee in 2020. Interestingly the location is still on the Circle K website and the features listed are even all correct. Who knows in a few years this may end up like the old Stop n Go’s in Houston that became “Stop and Go” or Circle K’s that became “Korner Store”.

2 comments

  1. It appears that they are using a similar strategy as Exxon/Mobil where they continue to use both brands, but they mean slightly different things. (Exxon for nicer larger stores; Mobil for smaller stores or franchisees). Valero has been turned into a gasoline/fuel brand, while Circle K is their convenience store brand. This means that they can have Circle K stores that are dual branded and sell Exxon gasoline, for example (which is a real example). Stores that do not meet the quality standards for the Circle K brand might still qualify for the Valero brand. Or if two stores are near each other, but both are profitable, they might brand one Circle K and the other Valero, which I have also seen. So, the Valero brand isn’t going away… it’s just now a fuel brand, not a convenience store brand.

  2. A former Diamond Shamrock/Corner Store near my late grandfather’s old house, at the corner of Valley Mills and Memorial in Waco, was a Corner Store in 2019 (when all the others in town had converted, with both old and new Corner Store stores alike turning Circle K). Fast forward to a few weeks ago, it was still rocking the Corner Store name (not blacked out to my knowledge) but the station had rebranded to Exxon.

What do you think?