LEE -- Big Y is joining forces with a company that runs convenience stores to open a "Big Y Express" store next month adjacent to its supermarket near the Exit 2 interchange with the Massachusetts Turnpike.
Big Y Foods Inc. and F.L. Roberts & Co. Inc., both family-owned Springfield-based companies, have been doing business together since 2008 and hope this new venture might eventually be expanded.
"We'd love to open more, but we're starting small and using this as a learning lab," said Big Y spokeswoman Claire D'Amour-Daley.
The new store, expected to open some time in October, will be located a few hundred feet from the supermarket that Big Y opened in November 2011. It will offer both food and fuel.
In September 2010, Big Y purchased the 10 acre parcel where the 51,500-square-foot supermarket is located for $4.25 million from F.L. Roberts, which operates a series of convenience stores, Jiffy Lubes, car washes, and truck refueling facilities in Massachusetts and Connecticut.
F.L. Roberts had formerly operated Diesel Dan's truck stop plaza on the Housatonic Street parcel. The company was originally interested in converting the lot into a $21.5 million travel plaza, but sold it to Big Y when the economic downturn caused those plans to fall through.
In 2012, Big Y sold the supermarket parcel for $14.6 million to its Ohio-based developer to help finance the construction of the mammoth market, which cost between $14 million and $16 million to build.
D'Amour-Daley said the two companies had mutually begun exploring the idea.
"Our expertise is in food procurement," she said. "F.L. Roberts has gas stations and knows how to run convenience stores."
According to Big Y, the new convenience store will feature a mixture of products from both companies. F.L. Roberts will be the operating partner and fuel supplier, while Big Y will provide snack, grocery, and ready to eat items, along with many of its private label products. This is Big Y's first venture into the vehicle fueling business.
"Several of our competitors have fuel," D'Amour-Daley said. "There are also several supermarket chains throughout the country that have a convenience store division."
In a statement, Steve Roberts, president of F.L. Roberts & Co., described the partnership between the two well-established companies as being "unique" in today's business environment because it will help grow the local economy.
"Instead of selling out to a big conglomerate or chain, two local well-established companies are combining their expertise to help each grow to better serve our customers and communities," he said.
Founded in 1936, Big Y operates 60 stores throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut that include markets in Adams, Great Barrington, Lee, North Adams and Pittsfield.
To reach Tony Dobrowolski: