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Sunshine Brings Out Customers For Pump & Pantry, Wings Market

Pump & Pantry and Wings Market

Sam Adams, owner of the Pump & Pantry and Wings Market in Vermont, attributes his ability to stay in business for more than 25 years to being adaptable and finding unique ways to grow.

Through store expansions and increasing assortments, the changes Adams made to his stores over the years has meant the difference between staying afloat and thriving in the Green Mountain State.

Sam Adams

Adams bought Williamstown’s Pump & Pantry in 1998. At the time, it was an approximately 4,000-square-foot c-store, selling gasoline, dry groceries and convenience items. When an opportunity to take over rental space in the building presented itself in 2004, Adams jumped at the chance to increase the size of the store.

With an additional 2,000 feet of merchandising space, Adams expanded the foodservice offerings and added a beer cave. It would take a decade before another 4,500 square feet was added. This extra space enabled Adams to create strong perishable departments and increase the grocery section.

Today, thanks to Adams’ vision, the Pump & Pantry is capable of supplying a family’s full grocery needs. He has also retained the c-store products that folks looking to refuel their vehicles and themselves are seeking. 

In fall 2022, Adams bought Wings Market in Fairlee, Vermont. Like the Pump & Pantry, this 6,500-square-foot store has a full grocery and perishable offerings. The Market also sells gasoline. 

Given its location near several lakes and summer camps, Wings Market’s business tends to be more seasonal than Pump & Pantry, which is more focused on the year-round local community. 

Fulfills strong need

The neighborhoods around both of Adams’ stores are rural. Dollar General and Hannaford Supermarkets are their primary competition.

Both stores are in the center of small village commercial centers, which also feature other businesses such as a hardware and building supply stores, cafes and bars. 

Both towns have a similar blue-collar population that desires a local place to buy groceries, beverages and meals. “Our stores have a market position between a c-store and a supermarket. They serve primarily as fill-in shopping destinations, although we have seen an increase in folks doing ‘full cart’ shops here in the past few years,” Adams said. 

inside of Pump & Pantry

He described his typical customer as a local who shops the store several times a week – or even multiple times per day. They come for coffee and gasoline in the morning and beer and steaks at night. Families having picnics or barbecues drive a lot of his summer business at both sites. 

“We sure feel the effects of the weather. Sunshine brings out a magnitude of customers, which means our sales tend to increase during this time,” he said.

Offering the best assortment possible is key. So, too, is being an active part of the communities Adams serves. “We strive to maintain attractive stores with competitive retail pricing and focus on serving the needs of our customers, whether that is by carrying hyper-local goods or supporting community organizations and activities.”

Keys to surviving

Bucolic Vermont can be a special place to own a business, but it isn’t without challenges. One of the biggest hurdles, according to Adams, revolves around finding new ways to grow sales in population-stagnant communities so that he can afford the increasing cost of doing business. 

“Wages and regulatory costs increase regardless of sales trends,” he said. “As a result, we relentlessly look at ways to save money on the cost of goods and services to protect our bottom line.”  

At the same time, Adams recognizes the key to growth is making it a team effort.

Pump & Pantry employs about 25 people and Wings Market about 15. With a mix of full- and part-time workers, employees fall into a range of ages. Some started there when they were high school students. Until recently, his oldest employee was 93, though she just retired.

“By treating our employees well, offering strong pay and benefit packages, we have been successful in maintaining a stable group of workers,” Adams said. “Low turnover has been a great benefit to operations. There is always going to be turnover at the edges, but having a solid core of folks that have worked here for a decade or more is a huge advantage.

“We feel it is worth the investment to retain employees rather than dealing with turnover, which has a huge cost in finding, training and providing poor service by a transient and non-invested workforce.”

Offering increased job responsibilities and new skill sets, as well as increasing compensation, are some of the ways Adams has retained staff. For example, he has trained a half dozen employees with no background in butchering to be meat cutters. He also pointed out that the woman who manages both stores started as a part-time employee while in high school, which is a point of pride.

Throughout his years in business there have been many trials, but Adams has always persevered. 

[RELATED: Grocery Retailing In Northeast: Diverse Landscape Varies By City, State]


“We have survived more than two decades in business by adapting and growing,” he said. “If we had not expanded Pump & Pantry twice in the last 20 years, we would either be a tired and poor performing c-store or we would be out of business.”

Wings Market
Wings Market

Surviving COVID was a huge challenge, Adams added. 

“We adapted to the pandemic, the greatest test faced by the food industry since the rationing of World War II, by pivoting to find alternative suppliers and products that our customers suddenly needed,” he said. “Since they no longer were stopping in for coffee or lunch, we needed to find a way to get in the variety of bulk grocery and meat products they needed.

“As an independent, we were able to move more nimbly to accommodate this shift than a large chain could.” 

Knowing more change is likely looming, Adams said he is open to altering his business model as needed to continue to provide the goods and services his customers want. 

Wings Market is targeted for a substantial facility refresh and energy-efficiency upgrade that will help it remain the destination of choice for customers in the area. 

“We are planning a remodel and small expansion to better accommodate the convenience store side of the business and to increase operational efficiency, which is a challenge due to the small footprint,” Adams said.

About the author

Carol Radice

Senior Content Creator

Carol joins The Shelby Report with more than 25 years writing for B2B magazines that cover the drugstore and supermarket industries. A Rutgers graduate, she earned her B.A. degree in journalism and mass communications more years ago than she cares to admit. She is thrilled to be working with such an accomplished team and to share her knowledge of the industry with Shelby’s readers.

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