Starting as a single car wash in Marshfield in 1976, VERC Enterprises has grown into one of the largest businesses in Massachusetts. CEO Leo Vercollone credits his 400 employees as the main reason for the company’s success.
Known for its forward thinking approach to customer service, strong ties to the community, and pioneering ideas, the Duxbury-based company owns and operates 34 gas station/convenience stores, as well as car washes, throughout Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. Most locations include Dunkin’ Donut shops. There’s also a small grocery market in Plymouth with a full-time baker and butcher. Most recently, VERC Enterprises introduced the sale of CBD oil and is opening specialized CBD stores within its convenience stores.
After graduating from Boston College in 1977, Vercollone joined the business founded by his father and uncle. It then had just one car wash in Marshfield and was opening a second in Duxbury.
As it grew, in the early 1980s, the company pioneered the evolution of gas station convenience stores.
“Back then gas stations didn’t have convenience stores,” says Vercollone.
Instead, in the early days, the locations sold only gas, and had auto repair bays.
That soon changed.
VERC Enterprises was the first gas station to add a Dunkin’ Donuts shop, which it did at its Pembroke location.
“It just so happened that the president of Dunkin’ Donuts was a neighbor of mine,” recalls Vercollone. “It was the first one they ever did. Now such joint ventures are routine.”
Vercollone describes the company’s approach to management as a four-legged chair. The most important leg, he says, is people. That’s followed by customers, the community, and finally, vendors and partners.
“If we take care of our employees, they take care of our customers,” he says.
To that end, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the company gave pay raises and bonuses to its staff. In February, every full-time employee received a $500 bonus, and part-time employees received $200. Each employee also received a $2 per hour increase, and managers’ salaries increased by $100 per week.
As part of its commitment to both employees and community, for the past 25 years VERC Enterprises has hired employees who are developmentally disabled. These employees, who work part-time, now make up more than 20 percent of the company’s workforce.
“They turn out to be wonderful associates, and very rarely do they ever leave. They love to come to work, they love to be out with people,” says Vercollone.
VERC Enterprises works with a number of organizations such as The Arc of Plymouth, May Institute and Best Buddies to place individuals with special needs on its payroll.
“That world is so under-employed, with a vacancy rate of about 75 percent. They have a lot of people to place and not enough jobs to give them,” he says.
Even during the pandemic, VERC Enterprises continues to hire new employees. The locations remain open (although the hours have been curtailed) because they’re considered an essential business.
“We love to hire the best and the brightest. As we grow we need good people.
We’re always on the lookout,” says Vercollone. Positions include associates, assistant managers, managers and regional managers.
VERC Enterprises typically adds one or two locations every year. Most properties have existing structures that the company either remodels or tears down and rebuilds.
“I think one of our keys to success is we handpick every location,” says Vercollone.
“We find one site that we really like and we’ll pay top dollar for it, and then we enhance it with Dunkin’ Donuts. We’ll want the best corner within a three-mile radius.”
The spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation that has been a trademark of the company since its founding is still very much alive at VERC Enterprises. A year-and-a-half ago, the company began selling CBD oil behind the counter at its retail locations.
“We saw the great properties of CBD,” explains Vercollone.
Customers responded very favorably, preferring the natural plant-based product over traditional pharmaceutical remedies.
Given the success, the company partnered with Ceres Natural Remedies, a Vermont-based supplier, to sell premium CBD oil, and remodeled its location at 131 Commerce Way in Plymouth to create a 500-square-foot CBD store within the existing store. A dedicated staff is trained to serve customers and answer questions about CBD oil.
Vercollone sees a great opportunity for CDB sales, noting that the industry is projected to grow from $2 billion to $15 billion in the next three years.
With the advent of COVID-19, Vercollone says the company’s overall product mix is evolving, with customers showing more interest in healthy foods and beverages. The company is also selling increasing quantities of gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see if this continues to evolve,” he says.
And VERC Enterprises, no doubt, will evolve with it.
For more information, visit www.vercenterprises.com