The Coach Ball Business Class Doing Work at The EaglesMart Convenience Store

EaglesMart Gilpin County High School
Photo by: Coach Ball
Business Mission:
The EaglesMart venture is directed to gain popularity by offering products and promotions that will attract a more significant number of customers. A school-associated store that is successful will also benefit the school and its students by allowing additional employment opportunities and training situations.


Gilpin students draft business plan to increase EaglesMart sales

School-associated store affords employment opportunities

by Patty Unruh (Reposted from The Weekly Register-Call)
Originally Posted On: March 7th, 2019 by Aaron Storms

Gilpin County High School students are getting out of the classroom and into the c-store as they work at EaglesMart, the enterprise begun in 2016 that provides real business experience for school credit. Since the convenience store opened, students have had the opportunity to receive a vocational experience alternating with class instruction.

Photo by: Patty Unruh Instructor: Coach Craig Ball
Photo by: Patty Unruh
EaglesMart, a joint project of the Gilpin County Education Foundation (GCEF) and the Gilpin County School District, is located at 135 Clear Creek Street next door to the Black Hawk post office. GCEF leases the space from the City of Black Hawk. Any profits made beyond overhead costs go to GCEF for student scholarships.

Ten young people are participating in a semester business course at the high school this term. Along with their class work, they visit the store for four hours one afternoon each month to check inventory, run the cash register, stock shelves, practice customer service, and do cleaning.

Additionally, Superintendent David MacKenzie has charged the class to come up with a plan to offer products and promotions that will attract more customers.

When this reporter stopped in on Tuesday, February 26, to talk with class members and their teacher, Craig Ball, I learned about a business plan they have been drafting to achieve this goal.

“Each student has contributed to this draft, and it is most definitely a group project,” Ball said. “On projects like this, I try to simulate the work environment by relying on each member to provide input, research, writing and editing skills, as if they were in a real office.”

He added, “I have had great success with student buy-in, because the experience is tactile. Each member must do their job to move the project forward.”

EaglesMart has three main customer bases: locals, casino and hotel patrons, and drive-by customers on the Peak-to-Peak Highway. Most of the operational and marketing ideas generated by the students focus on those groups.
Executive Summary: 
The EaglesMart is a local Gilpin County HS Affiliated convenience store located in Black Hawk, Colorado. The convenience store strives to provide the community with a clean and friendly environment and provide a product, and that will meet everyday needs. EaglesMart also allows for education enhancement for Gilpin County as a training and real-world experience incubator for local HS Students. 
Market and Customer Overview:
The EaglesMart Store has three primary customers groups that make up the bulk to the stores current business and these three groups would also provide for the majority of the potential growth of store sales. 
Customer Groups:
  • Local Gilpin County Residents
  • Drive-by customers using the Peak-to-Peak Hy
  • Casino and Hotel Guest visiting Black Hawk as Gamblers
Most of the operational and marketing ideas generated by this Business Organizer will use these three customer groups as the core marketing and product suggestions throughout this organizer. 
Currently, the store provides a variety of standard convenience store offerings, such as candy, salty snacks, canned goods, hot coffee, microwavable food, fountain drinks, fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, and packaged breakfast meats.

Students’ new ideas included offering free coffee to those who follow on Instagram, like on Facebook, or live locally; adding a Redbox DVD sales terminal; providing a free 7-Eleven network ATM inside the store; and supplying Black Hawk and Central City tourist information.

The store has an area that is mostly for consignment sales, with products ranging from local art to clothing. Students arranged items in this space to make room for more merchandise, thus hopefully increasing sales per square foot. They are considering making a display featuring “the biggest local jerky selection this side of the Missouri!” This would give the kids some Colorado products to use and advertise.

The teens hope to increase the store’s visibility with extra signage, which gave Ball an opportunity to teach about the need to work with city signage regulations.
“Black Hawk’s signage requirements are strict, as they should be. The kids will learn that the City is not always against you, but they do have rules.”

The teens are also pondering how to utilize a 100-square foot storage room that would improve sales without spending lots of money.

“We want to give people a reason to stop by here on their way home from work, like getting a pizza,” they said. “We could cook it in this back room.”

Ball agreed, but pointed out that an employee would always be needed to do the cooking.
“We won’t throw out good ideas before exploring them, though.”

EaglesMart does sell lottery tickets and tobacco products, items that are not available at Gilpin High School but that patrons in the store’s customer bases want. Ball engaged the students in a discussion about the ethics of selling such items. He reminded that grocery stores and convenience stores are now permitted to sell full-strength beer, something that somebody who is staying in the casino hotels may appreciate. Acquiring a license to sell beer and/or wine is a topic for exploration.

The Coach Craig  Ball Business Classroom
Photo by: Coach Ball
Putting ideas into practice requires market research. Students’ questions are: How many people visit Black Hawk as gamblers? What is the traffic count for cars driving by the store on Highway 119? How many hotel guests are there in Black Hawk? How many gambling industry employees work in the district? How many locals have post office boxes in Black Hawk? What are the profit centers in EaglesMart?
Products/Floor Space:
  • Free Coffee to those that follow on Instagram or like on Facebook or live locally
  • Improved coffee with timers to guarantee freshness 
  • Take and bake Pizza Premium Pre-Made in display refrigerator 
  • Partner with Coffee Shop to sell Lattes. (Signs Above coffee with Prices)
  • Acquire a license to sell Beer and/or Wine
  • Add a Redbox DVD Sales Terminal inside the store
  • Free 7-Eleven Network ATM inside the store or in the Common Area (Listed on ATM Network)
  • Offer the largest selection of Black Hawk/Central City  souvenirs to be sold in-store and online through a website
  • Offer Black Hawk and Central City Tourist Information(Paid Marketing for Casinos)
  • Curb Service for coffee delivery(Locals)
  • Signage on a vehicle at the Coyote Area
  • Additional Signage at both ends of the property 
  • Signs about: Free Public Bathrooms
  • Signs about Black Hawk/Central City Suvaneires, Riches Square Mile on Earth, City of Mills
  • Lobby for shuttle stop at the Postoffice/Store
  • Claim Google maps and Yelp pages
  • Provide a store website with products to sell online.
  • Collect email addresses for the mailing list of locals.
  • Instagram: Show Souvenirs and other items that people might need
  • Interact with people in town using location on Instagram
  • Produce photos of the store, people and specials as ongoing content
  • Use Facebook page to send out content and remind locals of offerings
Idea Generation:
  • Meet with Black Hawk City Manager for advice on what best to offer to enhance the city’s goals for the diversity of businesses and offerings. 
  • Meet with Casino Owners Association asking for help providing a valuable service and product for the casino and hotels industry. 
  • Meet with Gilpin Sheriff’s Department, Black Hawk Police and Fire Departments to find out what would be most advantageous for their officers while on duty.  
The students also propose providing a store website with products to sell online, interacting with people through Instagram, using Facebook to remind locals of offerings, and collecting an email list of locals.

Class members suggested meeting with the Black Hawk city manager for advice on how to enhance the city’s goals for the diversity of businesses; with the Casino Owners’ Association for help providing valuable services and products for the casino and hotel industry; and with the Gilpin Sheriff’s Department, Black Hawk Police and Fire Departments to learn what would help on-duty officers.

The youth enumerated the store’s many competitive advantages, such as ample parking, location on the Peak-to-Peak Highway, proximity to the Black Hawk Post Office and next-door coffee shop, and partnership with the high school. However, they noted that the store is located outside the main casino corridor, so it’s not easy to walk to; it’s not easy to see as you approach by car; and it does not offer a gas station.
Competitive Advantages: 
  • Adequate parking for quick stops and easy access to the store
  • Located on the Peak-to-Peak Highway
  • Located adjacent to the Black Hawk Post Office
  • Partnered with Local High School 
  • Can offer Clean Bathrooms for Customers
  • Free-Standing Store
  • Ancillary customer traffic due to adjacent Post Office and Coffee Shop
Competitive Disadvantages: 
  • Located outside the main casino corridor(not easy to walk to)
  • Not associated with or located in a casino
  • Limited Signage due to local restrictions
  • Limited Visibility: The Store is not easy to see as you approach by car
  • The store does not offer a gas station
  • The store does not offer an ATM
Besides drafting the business plan in class, the students carried out their usual jobs in the store – taking inventory, scanning items, and working the cash register. Other chores are taking pictures of the shelves to gauge placement of items, sweeping the floor, and cleaning windows.
“Last time we had to clean up an explosion of soda pop. That was awesome!” joked student Daniel Jewell.

Courteous customer service is vital.

“We teach them how to count change back,” Ball said. “It’s a lost art, but it’s a double check and a sign of courtesy.”

Unfortunately, the store is not as busy as would be ideal.
“I wish we had more traffic. If our shop was in Denver, we’d be working a lot on greetings and eye contact,” Ball said.

Classmates did serve a couple of guests and also practiced on each other at the cash register. Chance Williams acted as a customer and brought an item to Daniel Jewell, who was the checker.

“Are you paying with cash or card? Would you like a receipt? Thank you,” Jewell said politely.
Of course, the students can’t run EaglesMart alone. Melanie Tonn, the general manager since last July, has worked at the store for two years and is there full time five or six days a week. She helps the kids a bit when they are there, but mostly just watches them and lets them do their work.

“They are a big help,” she declared. “They really keep busy doing the cleaning and stocking.”
She felt the store provided an important service. “It’s for the school. This is a small town, and I think people would support the shop.”

The store also has an off-site advisor/manager, school board President Craig Holmes.
The students feel their work at EaglesMart is valuable in building confidence and experience for future jobs.

Michael Fry plans to become a mechanic and would like to own his own shop someday.
“I’ll apply what I learn in this class,” he decided.

Lindsy Cope chose the business class as an elective course for school credit and feels she will use it in the future. She and several of the others mentioned stocking and running the cash register as favorite activities.

It will be interesting to see the changes that take place through the students’ ideas. Make sure to help Gilpin High School by supporting EaglesMart!

Link to the Original The Weekly Register-Call Article