ENTERPRISING FRANCHISEE PLANS TO EXPAND BUSINESS
ANDOVER TOWNSHIP — Usha Parekh was living and working as a travel agent in India’s State of Gujarat, when she received a shock from her then-husband, who announced he decided to leave her. In those days in India, Parekh said, even if a woman’s husband walked out on her, it was the woman who was frowned upon.
Parekh sought a better life for herself and her 16-year-old son. She left India alone in 1996 destined for the United States without knowing a word of English, carrying one suitcase and $500. Parekh relishes in retelling her story, hoping it will be an inspiration to other women who have found themselves in similar situations.
Parekh eventually created the life she was seeking and remarried. She and her husband Rakesh Patel, who live in Newton, are now the franchisees for the Circle K Convenience Store & Gas Station at 239 Newton-Sparta Road. The couple is in the process of expanding their business in adjacent space within their shopping plaza, where customers will be able to purchase to-go meals from a salad bar and Broaster Chicken franchise; and beverages from a juice bar.
The Circle K convenience store chain was established in Texas in 1951, quickly expanded throughout New Mexico and Arizona. It now has a worldwide presence in 20 countries, with Alimentation Couche-Tard in Canada acquiring the brand in 2003.
Broaster Chicken is a franchise that boasts proprietary recipes and pressure frying through the “broaster” process. The Broaster franchise within Parekh’s Circle K franchise is considered a “Broaster Express,” which offers restaurant-quality, ready-to-go foods that franchisees distribute within a small space. Fried chicken, boneless Buffalo wings, potato wedges, corn dogs and onion rings are among the fare. Parekh said the Broaster items appealed to her and many of her customers since they are air-fried and have a lighter consistency than regularly fried foods.
Parekh said rebuilding her life in the United States when she arrived in November 1996 took sheer determination and hard work. She started working in a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise in Philadelphia, before briefly returning to India. Once she came back to the United States in 1997, she settled with friends in Bergen County and worked at a Dunkin’ Donuts location there. She learned English by watching television programs and speaking the language as much as possible.
“I knew if I wanted to live in this country, I had to learn English,” she said.
While living and working in Bergen County, she met Patel.
“I can do nothing without him (Patel),” said Parekh. “He’s my biggest supporter.”
Parekh worked in the Dunkin’ Donuts location in Franklin, before beginning at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Andover Borough’s Exxon station on Route 206. In 2003, Parekh became a partner in the franchise at that Dunkin’ Donuts. She and Patel moved to Andover Township’s Rolling Hills Condominiums in 2006, before buying their home in Newton. She has since become a U.S. citizen and said that people in the community have embraced them. Parekh said she wanted to commit to staying in Sussex County, because of what the people in the area have meant to her.
“This community gave me a lot of love,” she said. “I didn’t want to start over. I love my community.”
Parekh said Circle K contacted her to ask if she could oversee the franchise in Andover Township, which Parekh and Patel took over on July 3. She sold her share in the Dunkin’ Donuts franchise before transitioning to Circle K. Their success has come from working countless hours, she said, with Parekh putting in 12-hour days and Patel, 90-hour workweeks.
“This was my dream come true,” said Parekh of having the opportunity to become a franchisee for the Circle K brand.
The location is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for fuel, food and beverage purchases.
The bakery within the franchise specializes in fresh-baked bagels, rolls, donuts, muffins, cookies and breads. Another popular breakfast choice among Parekh’s loyal customers are the small boxes of cereal she stocks. There are hot beverages, with Circle K’s premium coffees, cappuccinos and teas for on-the-go purchases that customers can start their day with; or enjoy anytime.
The Circle K store also offers seasonal coffee flavors. Parekh said customers can return for a coffee refill at a nominal charge. Cold beverages can be chilled in Circle K’s “Polar Pop” cup that reportedly keeps beverages cooler longer – customers can opt for crushed or cubed ice. Milk shakes and smoothies are part of the frozen beverage selection.
Customers can stop in to grab a quick bite, with a selection of sandwiches and salads. There are hot foods, too, with sandwiches, hot dogs heated on a roller grill, empanadas, nachos and other items.
There are refrigerated, bottled beverages and other refrigerated choices. Ice cream pints are another option for treats on-the-go, at any hour of the day. Customers can satisfy snack cravings with a range of sweet to salty to spicy snacks. One-yard-long chocolate bars are one of the sweet favorites. Fresh fruit is a healthy snack choice that the Andover Circle K also offers to its customers.
The Broaster Chicken Express area that is by the location’s register has also become a go-to for Parekh’s customers throughout the day. One of the regulars is Bill Weiss, of Hampton, who initially met Parekh and Patel three years ago when they were working at the Dunkin’ Donuts in Andover Borough. He has followed the couple as a loyal client to Circle K.
“They’re great,” Weiss said of Parekh and Patel, “they’ve become like family.”
Weiss said he stops to the location “a few times a week” for fuel, but his other favorites are the coffee and Broaster Chicken items.
Parekh said she anticipates the expansion and opening of the food area in the adjacent space to the Circle K with the Broaster Chicken franchise, salad bar and juice bar to take place within the next six months.