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.
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”.
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.
Valero actually has no connection with Circle K or their former stores. I go into this in an upcoming post, but essentially they’ve been separate since 2013, and there were Corner Store locations that sold Phillips 66 fuel as far back as 2016. Circle K on the other hand has very lax rules for what gas supplier they’ll use. I think Exxon is the preferred brand here, but I also believe Valero holds a contract that allows them to continue supplying the fuel regardless of who runs the store.
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.