Fill ‘er Up! Growlers + Gas at Modern C-store

By Edible South Florida | May 05, 2014
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Mendez Fuel refills beer growlers

At the Mobil gas station on the busy corner of Coral Way and SW 32 Ave., you can’t miss the car wash painted in tropical brights by artist Alexander Mijares. Drive in for a fill-up, but please don’t pay at the pump – go inside. Amid the typical fare of rows of gum, pickled sausages and Colt 45, you’ll  find vegan health bars, Panther Coffee cold brew and lunch sandwiches, like a Reuben and a “Good Morning Vietnam.” The taps on the wall include Wynwood Brewery’s La Rubia. Oh, and there are growlers.

Mendez Fuel is the pioneering face of the new convenience store in 2014.

“We’re changing the perspective of the gas station,” says Michael Mendez, who’s owned this Mobil in the Coral Gate neighborhood for five years, as well as three others in Miami-Dade, all managed by his brother Andrew. “Beer and health – everyone wants healthier options today,” says Michael. The convenience store has to adapt.”

The Beer …

There’s no question this station, with the new Fuel Juice and Deli inside, is successfully innovating by bringing in new products to appeal to different audiences. Customers have been making the drive from Kendall and Homestead to explore their extensive craft beer line, which has grown from a few craft beers to three cooler doors full, says Mendez. The new taps to fill growlers – to-go jugs – including local choices from Funky Buddha Brewery and Cigar City as well as Wynwood Brewery, are another reason to make this Mobil station a destination for craft beer lovers. Mendez Fuel even had a booth at last October’s Grovetoberfest beer festival in Coconut Grove.  

… and the Health

For followers of the Paleo and Crossfit fitness trends, the market stocks Fuel Juices, their own line of organic cold-pressed juices with clever automotive names like “Coolant” (pineapple, aloe, mint, cucumber, kelp and flower essence) and “Smooth Ride,” made with cashew, date, vanilla, lucuma, mesquite and Florida Keys sea salt. Juices and items like Crave Clean cupcakes, health bars and high-end chocolate bars attract a “different client, willing to spend money,” says Mendez, who has seen Paleo and Crossfit aficionados spread the word on social media about the convenience store. For their specialty sandwiches, they brought in a consultant to develop sophisticated offerings using quality products. A breakfast menu is expected to follow shortly.

The Coral Gate location, at a busy crossroads just east of downtown Coral Gables and scores of new condos along Douglas Road, attracts a wide variety of clients. “We see everything from Accords to Ferraris here,” Mendez says. And he aims to accommodate all of those customers – they also stock Corona and Heineken, and Mendez doesn’t see that changing any time soon. And, he adds, their other locations, located in west and southwest Miami-Dade, aren’t ready to get the same new treatment.

But for this store, Mendez remains on the lookout for unique and often local products to add to their lineup, vowing to continue to try to innovate. He is quick to credit another service station restaurant with revamping the concept of the C-store: El Carajo, a tapas restaurant with an extensive wine list located inside the BP station on SW 17th Avenue just off US 1. With their extensive wine selection and focus on Spanish dining, “they changed the view,” he says. He sees his station as doing the same for craft beer lovers and for healthy eating.

His longtime staff is adjusting to the changes, getting familiar with the new products and offering juice samples to customers, and serving South Florida staples, cafecitos, though there are no pastelitos here for a simple reason: competition. Says Mendez: “We’re surrounded by Gilbert’s, Ricky’s Bakery, El Brazo Fuerte, Winn-Dixie. Can’t compete with that.”

Mendez Fuel located at 3201 Coral Way. Their other locations, which do not offer growlers, are at 7490 Coral Way, 11870 Bird Road and 701 NW 7 Ave. Find them on Facebook here.

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