Article By: Jeff Marcum
Photos By: Josh Triggs
It would be difficult to pinpoint the exact moment that convenience stores became such an integral part of the community. Nevertheless, service stations that once provided gasoline for your horseless carriage have evolved into a one-stop shop to buy gas, snacks, groceries, and even a full menu of fresh food. ROCS understands this evolution. In 1952, R. Mark “Mickey” Roach founded what would become R. M. Roach & Sons, parent company of ROCS, Roach Energy, and Sunfire Energy Solutions in Martinsburg. Since then, the company has experienced rapid growth throughout Berkeley, Jefferson, and Morgan Counties in West Virginia, and in Washington County in Maryland. But ROCS isn’t the same service station started in 1952. Matt Roach, along with his brother, Jason, and father, Steve, all owners of the business, summed it up like this, “Convenience stores are offering a greater customer experience than ever before. The industry has evolved from a simple model of selling fuel, cigarettes, beer, and soda to offering a complete shopping experience that includes grocery, fresh food, and more – the ‘one stop everything’. As consumer demand evolves, the more robust our model must become. Our food service growth is a key part of our expanding offer. It’s an exciting time in our industry and we’re ready for the challenge.”
ROCS does not just understand and embrace this new role of convenience stores, they excel at it. ROCS has 15 locations across four counties, and are currently expanding to a 16th location to be opened later this year. Even faced with stiff competition from regional competitors, ROCS continues to thrive as a locally owned and operated business. Kelly Roach, Director of Sales and Marketing, believes that a lot of their success can be attributed to their core values. “Our core values as an organization are a part of every interaction we have daily – with our customers, employees, stakeholders, vendors, and others. ‘Demonstrating Strong Leadership’, ‘Total Customer Dedication’, ‘Build Caring Relationships’, these are just a few of those values. We truly practice what we preach and carry this mindset throughout our relationships. I believe that is what sets us apart from other similar businesses in the area and is the reason why we are such a strong 4th generation family operation; family in the sense that we are still a family-owned and operated organization, but also in the sense of a work family and community. There are many employees that have been with the business for 10-15-20-25 years. We are so grateful to have such a dedicated work family and community; it is the reason why we are a strong and successful organization.”
Currently, the largest area of growth in convenience stores is fast food. This latest incarnation only started a few years ago, but customers have latched on to the idea and are now expecting not just snack food, but full meals as well. ROCS has met this challenge head on, starting with the introduction of the ROCS Fresh Kitchen, and expanding recently with Smoke on the ROCS BBQ. ROCS offers not only fast food, but fast food that is always freshly-made with high-quality ingredients. ROCS is truly committed to making customers happy with the freshest, fastest, and friendliest service anywhere. The ROCS Fresh Kitchen features a market-fresh operation style that includes fresh, never frozen, hand-breaded chicken, fresh baked bread, meat sliced daily, and real eggs cooked on a flattop grill. While the Fresh Kitchen is currently offered at only three ROCS locations, ongoing and planned renovations will allow more stores to participate in their food offer.
The newly introduced Smoke on the ROCS BBQ is really creating a buzz. As an experienced pit master, Jason Roach has a passion for great BBQ. He even led the Sunfire Energy Solutions BBQ team several years ago at Pickin’ in the Panhandle. “We’re aiming to deliver competition-level barbecue to the area. Barbecue that you can count on to always be tender and delicious. We’ve mastered our recipes over the last several months, and we can promise consistent delivery of truly great barbecue.” ROCS has several professional-grade smokers which are used to fresh-smoke meat daily up to 12 hours or more until it is fall-off-the-bone tender.
There is also an arsenal of three house-made barbecue sauces to sample. The Sweet Heat Sauce, created in Jason’s own kitchen, is a hot and spicy sauce with a hint of sweetness on the tail end, the Tangy Sauce is a blend of chipotle and citrus flavors, while the Sweet & Smoky Sauce has more of a traditional smoky flavor.
You can currently taste Smoke on the ROCS BBQ at two locations, ROCS’ flagship store at 39 Kelly Island Road in Martinsburg, and their Spring Mills location at 1224 TJ Jackson Drive. However, a continued emphasis on delivering quality food will soon have the BBQ available at more locations, including plans for on-site catering. Nathan Cosner, Director of ROCS Operations, shared his thoughts on the expansion of the Fresh Kitchen and Smoke on the ROCS. “As our organization continues to grow, the more than 200 employees that are the face of our company are critical to ensuring that we are practicing our values and delivering on our promises. Especially as we expand our food service offer, our Fresh Kitchen teams are interacting with customers more and more. We’re all excited with our future in food service, especially with barbecue as there is a ton of growth potential with our mobile smoker into event and business catering in the region.
“But ROCS is more than just a local business. They are part of the community that believes in giving back. Each year, they invest back into the community by supporting many local, regional, and state initiatives in areas such as education, youth recreation and engagement, rehabilitation and emergency services. Their major community partners are the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle, The Children’s Home Society of West Virginia, and the Boys and Girls Club of the Eastern Panhandle. Their employees live in the Eastern Panhandle. They are our neighbors. They have a vested interest in making the community a great place to live and work.
Steve Roach added, “Our community is so special because of the many leaders that want to make our community better, investing their time and resources to make a difference. We are grateful to be a part of this community that has supported us for sixty-five years. Part of our core values as an organization has always been to be a strong partner in the community; listening to the needs of the communities we do business with, responding, and supporting those needs. We are committed to making the communities where we do business better places to work and live. We want to be remembered as being a dedicated partner in that constant drive for community enhancement.
“It is that drive to provide quality service to customers and the community that sets ROCS apart. When you walk into a ROCS location, you will find a clean store and friendly staff that always greets you. You will also find quality products at great prices. At their three Fresh Kitchen locations, you will find a wide selection of high-quality made-to-order food. A lot of effort has been expended to ensure each customer has a pleasant shopping experience and is able to leave satisfied with the ROCS’ promise of a ‘Fast, Fresh & Friendly Experience Every Time’. It is this willingness to go the proverbial ‘extra mile’ that shows how much ROCS cares about their customers.
But that drive to serve others and meet the needs of the community does not end at the store. It reaches out into the community as well. Jason remembers how that commitment to serve others was instilled in him many years ago. “When I was younger, I rode around on the oil delivery truck, pulling the hose for the driver and filling customer tanks. I remember going out with Dad to do a Christmas Eve delivery because he didn’t want to have to call in a driver during their time with their family, but also did not want to let the customer go through the agony of having no heat through the holiday.” That level of commitment is evident throughout ROCS. There truly is a sense of family and ownership.
So if you need to fill your tank, or if you’re looking for some mouth-watering BBQ, stop by one of the many ROCS locations throughout the Eastern Panhandle and Washington County. Also, keep an eye out for enhanced locations, new and exciting offerings, and the opening of the new store off I81 exit 16W towards Huntsville. When considering the many choices you have when it comes to convenience stores, your expectations will consistently be exceeded by ROCS’s fresh quality food and exceptional customer service.