More than a Job: C-store Owner Pays It Forward with Opportunity

“This is a great place to grow up,” said Lisa Dell’Alba, as she stood in the middle of the dance studio where she teaches ballet each week to children in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Lisa is the President and CEO of Square One Markets, a family-owned c-store chain with seven locations around Allentown. It’s hard to say if it’s the love of her hometown or her dedication to the family business, but Lisa looks at her job differently than many would expect.

“For me, it’s really about giving people an opportunity. That’s very important to me,” Lisa said. “I see myself as less of a business owner and more of an opportunity-giver.”

Staffing is a challenge for any c-store operation, but at Square One, most employees we spoke with had been working there for a year or more. From store managers to cashiers, they know all their regular customers, some who come in multiple times a day. Younger employees say they see runway for management opportunities in the future.

Each store is stocked with the items that their surrounding community wants and needs, even taking special orders for individual customers. During this time of COVID-19, the area realized just how essential Square One Markets was to their daily lives.

“Even if we didn’t have what they needed, I always offered to order it for them,” said Store Manager, Jessica Luce. “Our customers were grateful because they couldn’t find certain items at their normal stores and a lot of times, we had exactly what they wanted.”

It’s clear Lisa doesn’t take her job lightly. Being a small retailer, she knows the war to win customers and keep people on her team employed is a never-ending battle.

“We’ve got some major competition in the area. Their goal is to put us out of business, so I have to fight every day to make sure our team succeeds,” Lisa said. “At the end of the day, I just want them to feel like they were productive, that they did a good job.”