Business grows with new Ray Brook Maplefields store

Maplefields worker helps customer John Duquette of Saranac Lake Saturday at the new store in Ray Brook. (Enterprise photo — Peter Crowley)

RAY BROOK — Customers seem to be answering the call of a large new Maplefields gas station and convenience store.

Assistant Manager Jess Paye on Saturday described the flow of customers as “very steady” and even sometimes “a little hectic” since the store opened on Dec. 21. Manager Chris Johnson wouldn’t give out customer numbers but said he had underestimated the number of employees he would need. He had figured on 16 — a mix of part-time and full-time — compared to nine at the old Ray Brook Sunoco that existed on this site previously. Now he’s up to 19 and is still hiring. He said other Maplefields stores have been sending their employees here to help.

“It’s been a lot busier than it was,” Johnson said. He attributed that to “more offerings, more room for vehicles to get in and out.”

The new store is three-and-and-a-half times the size of the old one. The Ray Brook Sunoco measured 1,600 square feet, and Maplefields spans 5,500, Johnson said. But it seems like an even bigger change because the old store was darker with lower ceilings and a cramped layout, while the new one has high ceilings, huge windows that let light pour in, and more room to walk around.

The deli that local customers like Jeremy Ceisner used to enjoy has been expanded. Its new menu includes pizza, hamburgers, “Twister” wraps, hot soup and breakfast pancakes. At the same “My Fresh Cafe” counter, staff served can customers cold-brew coffee and specialty coffee drinks like a peppermint mocha frappe.

Meanwhile, since coffee is a staple of convenience stores, a row of 17 Green Mountain Coffee urns awaited customers for self-service against the window Thursday, next to pastries set out under glass covers.

Outside are eight gas pumps, twice as many as before, plus a separate station with several types of diesel fuel.

Maplefields is a brand of the R.L. Vallee Inc. company, based in St. Albans, Vermont, which bought the Ray Brook Sunoco in March 2015 from the Sandri Companies. R.L. Vallee put in new gas tanks in May 2015 and built the new store this fall and winter.

There are several dozen Maplefields stores in Vermont and northeastern New York. Johnson said this is the second-biggest one so far, and the company plans to build a bigger one in Plattsburgh, its third location there.