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Tobacco Superstore Lives Up to its Namesake with a Wide Product Selection

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In addition to tobacco, the stores also offer vapor and electronic cigarettes, hookah and CBD products, beer and wine, candy and snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages at affordable prices.

When customers walk into a Tobacco Superstore Inc. location, they not only encounter a wide selection of tobacco and cigarette products, but also friendly service from some of the best employees in the business. Finding these people, CEO Joe Marelle says, is key to the company’s success.

“Without the best people, it doesn’t matter what ideas we come up with in meetings,” he states. “We’re positioned well with the people that we believe are going to make it do well.”

Based in Forrest City, Ark., Tobacco Superstore is the largest cigarette and tobacco retailer in the southern United States. It started operations in 1993 and has grown to operate 85 locations in the states of Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky.

In addition to tobacco, the stores also offer vapor and electronic cigarettes, hookah and CBD products, beer and wine, candy and snacks, and non-alcoholic beverages at affordable prices. “At the end of the day, we’re the best with what we bring in,” Marelle declares.

This reflects the company’s philosophy of living up to its namesake. “If we’re going to call ourselves a ‘superstore,’ we’ve got to be one,” he states. “You’ve got to have the products that people want and prices that make sense.”

Growing Strong

Tobacco Superstore is currently in growth mode. Last year, the company acquired 12 buildings to redevelop into new locations. Although it has already opened four, “We’ve still got eight more to go,” Marelle reports.

The company plans to open the new stores throughout the month of January while also launching educational apps. “One of them is more tailored towards the customer and one of them is more tailored to our employees,” he says. “The customer app will provide insights into new products as well as promotional activities across the chain.” 

The app created for Tobacco Superstore associates, he notes, will allow them to more easily access company information such as sales reports. “That’s going to be huge,” Marelle predicts. 

Tobacco Superstore also recently made the move to a new wholesale provider, Imperial Distributors Inc. “We feel like this is the time to try this and we have respect for Imperial,” Marelle says.

But the company still holds its previous supplier, Core-Mark, in high regard. In fact, Tobacco Superstore hired its former Arkansas division president, John Mollet, to join its team. “He’s going to take the role of chief operating officer,” Marelle says.

A Personable Place

Tobacco Superstore says that its positive workplace culture has earned the loyalty of its employees. Today, “The people we have around stay committed to us and are willing to do everything,” Marelle reports.

This includes traveling long distances with little notice or supporting their fellow workers when they need help. “It’s just a very loyal group that we wouldn’t trade for anything,” he says. “We have each other’s backs and that’s the core of what we do.”

One of the keys to earning this loyalty, he notes, has been keeping things simple in its workplace. Although the company continuously makes improvements and updates, “We don’t try to make it too structured,” he asserts. Marelle also strives to make work at Tobacco Superstore stress-free. “I tell employees, ‘I want you to enjoy yourself,’” he continues, adding that he allows them to make mistakes and learn from them. 

“None of us are perfect 100 percent of the time and that’s something I try to preach to our people,” Marelle says. “I’ve never gotten mad at anybody for making an honest mistake.”

Branching Out

Marelle, who joined Tobacco Superstore in 2011, is proud of the company’s recent growth. But he also highlights a personal event that brings him pride: the birth of his son Noah, who is 18 months old. 

“He’s what drives me and gives me a little extra motivation to do better,” he says, adding that Tobacco Superstore has plans to continue doing better in 2020. 

While it has seen an increase in competitors with the opening of more CBD stores, the company plans to continue growing in that market. “New entities and new industries really have to bring the customer in,” he says.

“We already have the customer coming in,” Marelle says, explaining that the company is ready to add new products if the customer wants them. “That is what our philosophy has been for the past few years.”

Tobacco Superstore also has plans to keep growing its footprint with the acquisition of more buildings that will place it in new regions. “We also might diversify and have a few gas stations in a few years,” he predicts. “That’s in the cards, too.” 

“We are keeping our options open as we identify new regions,” he adds.

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