Coen redoubles efforts to grow convenience store business

Paul J. Gough
Pittsburgh Business Times

A 94-year-old Washington County company is looking to a future where it could nearly double the number of its locations in the next five years.

Coen Oil Co. began as a single service station in 1923 and grew into a regional powerhouse in commercial and residential oil, transport and energy services. Earlier this month, it sold its Coen Energy and Coen Transport divisions to Sprague Resources (NYSE: SRLP).

Chairman Charles McIlvaine told the Pittsburgh Business Times that the same effort that built Coen Energy and Coen Transport into what they are will be used to transform its convenience store business. Coen’s Ruff Creek Markets brand has about 30 locations today in southwestern Pennsylvania, northern West Virginia and eastern Ohio.

“Our opportunity, having monetized Coen Energy and solidified its legacy, is to now focus on the Coen Markets business and strive to make (its best-in-class) a reality,” McIlvaine said.

The formula: Distinctive fresh foods in its full-service stores, customer service, and a strong retail environment. The foods start with Ruff Creek’s speciality, its original crispy chicken and hand-cut potato wedges known as jojos.

Charles McIlvaine and his brother, Andrew, descendants of the original founders, bought the business in 2000. Coen’s fast growth as a convenience store chain accelerated in 2010. It was growth that saw it move its headquarters to Canonsburg, and McIlvaine doesn’t see it stopping.

“Our view is that we want to be in 50-plus (markets) within five years, half of them our full food service markets,” McIlvaine said.