By JOHN HOWELL Neon Marketplace, a Procaccianti company, is preparing to turn the image of the service station convenience store on its head. And the prototype for the company that envisions opening 150 stores throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts and
Neon Marketplace, a Procaccianti company, is preparing to turn the image of the service station convenience store on its head.
And the prototype for the company that envisions opening 150 stores throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut in the next five years is right here in Warwick at one of the busiest intersections in the state – Airport and Post roads.
Cleared of the Mobil service station and adjoining restaurant, a groundbreaking is scheduled for this morning attended by state and local officials. In a show of their support for the community, Neon will be making a $5,000 donation to the Warwick Boys and Girls Clubs.
So what’s going to make Neon so different from any other convenience store?
Elise Babey, product development manager for Neon, relished the question at an interview held at Procaccianti Companies headquarters in Cranston Tuesday afternoon.
She starts with what customers will see on entering the 5,500-square-foot store – a pizza oven. This is not just an oven, but an Earthstone pizza oven like the Kardashians and multiple celebrities have in their homes.
And you don’t just find one of these ovens at Home Depot. As Babey explained, she and Peter Rasmussen, director of operations, spent a week in Glendale, California, home of Earthstone Oven for a week of training. With a temperature of 800 degrees, Rasmussen said a pizza could be made and cooked within 4½ minutes of an order being placed.
Speed and convenience is part of what Neon is about. Marketplace is the other half. The marketplace will offer a range of merchandize as well as freshly prepared foods and coffees. For those who want it, they can grind the beans for their brew on the spot. The marketplace will offer freshly made sandwiches and baked goods available at a drive-thru, curbside or delivery.
“This is a substantial investment,” says Ralph Izzi Jr., vice president of marketing and public affairs for Procaccianti. The Warwick store, which he calls the “flagship” of Neon Marketplace, is costing about $9 million. By the end of next year, the company plans to be operating 30 locations in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. While the Warwick store is the prototype for the brand, it won’t be the first Neon when it opens this fall. Procaccianti bought stores in Middletown and Portsmouth that it has used to introduce the brand and test market.
Izzi sees Neon as “filling a void in the Northeast market.” He said Florida offers convenience stores similar to Neon.
Procaccianti recruited Rasmussen from Wawa, which owns and operates convenience stores and service stations, where he led the expansion of 225 stores in Florida. Neon is also tuned to technology enabling customers to order and pay with use of phone apps. In addition to 16 fueling stations there will be Tesla and ChargePoint charging stations capable of an 80 percent of full charge in 20 to 30 minutes. That’s time that Izzi sees customers spending in the marketplace.
Izzi knows how busy the Post and Airport intersection is and how difficult it might be to cross multiple lanes of traffic. He said engineers are looking to design a safe means of egress and access. Traffic and the proximity to the airport are reasons why Warwick was selected for the prototype.
Neon is also looking to invest in its staff.
The store that will be open 24 hours a day will mean 40 jobs to the community. Neon Marketplace will pay up to $17 an hour for Associates and up to $90,000 for general managers. Mangers will be paid $54,700, said Kellie Connolly, Neon’s human services director.
While not high profile, Procaccianti Companies was founded 63 years ago. As described on its website, the company is an “alternative asset manager with a broad national platform having owned, developed, managed or financed investment real estate in more than 170 cities across 32 states coast to coast.”