Blake Smith, CEO of SQRL, shares his commitment to revolutionizing the gas station sector 

Not only is SQRL Fuels the name of the company, but it also stands for the values it upholds. Service, Quality, Relationships, and Loyalty are integrated into every aspect of the business, from providing top-quality fuel products to offering exceptional customer service. Stewardship is at the core of the company’s business model. SQRL recognizes the impact that the transportation sector has on the environment, and believes it has a responsibility to minimize that impact as much as possible.

From the moment raw materials are received to the point of delivery, every step of the production process is rigorously tested and monitored to ensure SQRL is delivering a product that meets its high standards. Building and maintaining strong relationships is at the core of everything the company does. It fosters long-term partnerships with customers, suppliers, and stakeholders that are built on trust, transparency, and open communication.

Blake Smith, CEO of SQRL

Blake Smith, CEO, shares his story: “I started out working for a company called Casey’s General Stores, doing site selection and development throughout the state of Arkansas. Casey’s is now one of the largest convenience store chains in America. Their business model meant they could penetrate sections of the market that other, larger operators weren’t interested in. So, for example, they would go to a one-horse town and develop a gas station. In fact, one of their most successful verticals is pizza. I believe they’re the fourth largest pizza chain in the country, which is incredible considering they operate out of a gas station.

“I spent the best part of a decade working with Casey’s, bringing them into Arkansas, which is where I’m originally from. While I’ve also worked in the upstream oil and gas business, buying and selling rights, royalties, and leases, the experience of working at Casey’s, as well as Circle K, another convenience store chain, enabled me to experience service provision that promotes a strong focus on quality.

“There are around 150,000 gas stations nationwide in the United States,” Blake continues, “and 60-to-70 percent of those are still mom-and-pop independently owned and operated. While there are major chains in certain areas, the market is still fragmented. Many of the independents don’t have a succession plan in place, which is where SQRL came in.

“I saw an opportunity in the market to acquire those types of gas stations that could benefit from a strong service model. From impeccable cleanliness to the offer to carry groceries to the car, a clean, safe, and inviting environment coupled with a strong service model are the foundations for SQRL’s offering.”

Indeed, as Blake enthuses, SQRL’s vision is to ‘rebuild America one corner store at a time.’ The company is revolutionizing the convenience store industry through laser-precision tactical service models. Some stations are full-service at the pump and inside, while many of the products offered are proprietarily sourced and interspersed with locally grown business.

Following a recent acquisition, SQRL has added a further 210 stores to its portfolio. “We’re entering some new states as a result and while it’s a time of great chaos, it’s also a period of great growth, which is a real blessing,” he explains. With a presence in 14 states, SQRL’s unique offering continues to set it apart from the competition. “I believed it was possible to operate a footprint of gas stations across rural America by means of delivering consistent exceptional service combined with a local flavor. While the brand remains the same across the board, each store boasts individuality.

“Alongside this, an intrinsic part of our vision is to be as sustainable as possible. Obviously, EVs and charging stations are at the forefront of conversation, and while we embrace that, currently, the shift isn’t widely economically viable for developers. That said, we just signed an agreement to implement solar installations at several of our sites. The use of solar panels provides a sustainable way to power our locations with the ambition to provide excess energy to the local communities. We’re getting to the point where the technology and incentives are beginning to converge, and ultimately, we want to enable fossil fuels and clean energy to operate in the same space.”

Rebuilding communities
Looking to the future, Blake shares that his vision for the business is continued growth. “We want to maximize our footprint over the next three-to-five years. The plan is to accumulate 500 stores by the end of 2024. Our vision is to breathe life into American communities. Much of America is still rural and in a small town, the gas station is an important community hub. Many stations have been run down and lost their appeal, and as such, we want to rebuild those places and give people the opportunity to reengage with the local area. A formal education isn’t a prerequisite for running a gas station, but if someone has the grit and the opportunity, it’s possible to progress and succeed. We’re helping to rebuild these communities and, in some cases, giving those who live within them, the opportunity to rebuild their lives.”

SQRL endeavors to give more than it takes in every situation in both business and life. “The company has a family feel, and an intrinsic mission to help. I don’t have to ask for that commitment anymore; it’s ingrained in the culture, from the leadership down. Charitable initiatives have taken on a life of their own, and I’m 100 percent supportive of every single request to give back to the communities in which we operate. The secret to SQRL is that we genuinely care,” Blake concludes. “We care about the environment, the future, the communities that we go into, and about people. If you were to ask me what it is that we do differently, then that’s it. I can’t compete in terms of rock-bottom prices on basics, but I do care deeply about human beings, which I think is a huge differentiator and something the world needs more of.”