Hampton Provides Transformational Value to U-STOP

Throughout the fall and winter of 2020-21, Whitehead Oil Co. President and CEO Mark Whitehead reunited with Hampton Enterprises — Properties & Construction, to build his 24th U-STOP. It marks the 22nd location in Lincoln and the first to anticipate and exceed the demands of consumers amid COVID-19 and thereafter. In several ways, it stands out from other U-STOPs that came before it.

The 6,000-square-foot layout with 10 gasoline dispensers and 20 fueling stations makes it larger than many of Whitehead’s popular stores. This U-STOP, located in the surging southeast part of town, just off Nebraska Highway 2 at 73rd Street and Pine Lake Road, also features two electric vehicle charging stations. 

No other location has Jeannie’s Kitchen, named in honor of Whitehead’s late mother, who specialized in making mealtime a special event. This built-in grill serves breakfast, burgers, pizza, chicken, pulled pork and comfort food. Customers can order by phone or via touchpads just outside the main window and have their meals delivered by DoorDash. There’s a drive-in window, scheduled to become operational in spring 2021, when the adjoining Soapatopia Car Wash is launched.

It's not difficult to spot other significant differences as well.

Customers using the main entrance can look to their left if they have mealtime in mind. That includes a breakfast case, a coffee counter and Jeannie’s Kitchen. They can find more traditional convenience store fare, including lighter snacks, to their right. Yet it can be said that even the traditional offerings are more than they appear at first glance.

The massive beverage cooler contains more than 300 selections, more than half of which are caffeine-free. There’s a separate beverage case for beer from local microbreweries, as well as a walk-in cooler for 6- and 12-packs of various popular selections, including soft drinks, energy drinks and cases of water.

“We try to differentiate ourselves, whether it's for convenience items or fuel,” Whitehead said. “The fact we have all three — U-STOP, Jeannie’s and Soapatopia — we hope that creates value and helps differentiate us from other alternatives as a customer center. We want to meet customer expectations. To the extent you can exceed them, you’re at a very good point."

Whitehead envisions people using the commercial grade vacuums after washing their car, then coming inside for a bite to eat before heading down the road.

"The ultimate is when you come up with a transformational concept," he said. "That’s where it creates value people couldn’t even conceive or didn’t anticipate. We can strive for that, but it’s the customer who ultimately will decide whether the concept is transformational.”

To build a transformational store, Whitehead turned to Hampton, as he has many times since the early 1980s. 

Starting in mid-August 2020, Hampton took just five months to complete the main store, which opened Jan. 20 on schedule. That required shepherding a host of subcontractors through not only uncertain winter weather, but a pandemic, and that’s what happened under the leadership of Job Foreman John Scotton and Project Manager Jason Hulsebus.

Scotton led weekly meetings to keep Whitehead’s team apprised of progress as Hampton’s crew responded to changing conditions. Whitehead said President of Construction Division Scott Lockard “had his fingerprints on the project as well.”

“The main thing they overcame throughout the construction project was COVID-19,” Whitehead said. “We had more than one subcontractor group that either had to limit their effectiveness or even pull whole crews off to recuperate from COVID. And yet Hampton still performed in an efficient fashion.”

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