CoGo’s – previously Stop-N-Go – fueled the cars & bellies of Pittsburghers for more than half a century.
The chain started in the early 1960s, when the aging World War Two generation was expanding into the suburbs. Milk routes, operated by local dairies like Colteryahn Dairy, thrived by delivering milk & other dairy products to homes in cities. The economics of delivering dairy products to people’s homes was more expensive in the suburbs as the milk routes were spread out.
The Colteryahn family opened a chain of Stop-N-Go convenience stores to keep delivering milk – to remain profitable – as the markets changed. While family owned, the local Stop-N-Go stores operated independently from Colteryahn Dairy. The dairy purchased milk from farmers in Westmoreland County, processed it at their facility in Carrick & sold it through CoGo’s. Juice was also a popular item. Operating CoGo’s allowed the dairy to survive.
Southland Ice Company was one of the earliest convenience store chains in the U.S. Their stores sold ice at a time when many homes didn’t have refrigerators. People bought ice to keep their perishables cool. The stores also sold milk, bread & eggs. They were open from 7:00 in the morning until 11:00 at night. Back then, those were long hours for a retail store to be open. The long hours allowed people to buy groceries when their usual grocery stores were closed. Shortly after the end of World War Two, the stores were renamed “7-Eleven” to underscore being open so much. In time, 7-Eleven became the largest convenience store chain in America.
The Stop-N-Go convenience store chain had 97 stores in the Pittsburgh region when they were renamed CoGo’s during the mid 1980s, according to the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society.
By the mid 2010s there were 44 company-owned CoGo’s & 13 franchise locations. They were located in small towns. They employed nearly 500 people. Nearly one-third of Colteryahn Dairy’s income was from selling milk, juice & tea through CoGo’s. CoGo’s tea – the Burgh Tea line – was promoted with pictures from Allegheny County parks. The cartons included coupons for money off admission to county pools, golf courses, ice rinks, ski slopes & snow tubing. CoGo’s was selling half a million pepperoni rolls every year that were baked in the stores.
CoGo’s was down to 38 stores at the end of 2018. It no longer had the capital necessary to grow. It was sold to another family-owned convenience store operator in Southwestern PA, Coen Markets. Coen Markets had sold its Coen Energy & Coen Transport businesses, & had the cash to expand.
In Business, You’re Either Growing Or You’re Dying
Title of a Forbes Magazine article
Based in Canonsburg, south of Pittsburgh in Washington County, Coen Markets operated more than two dozen stores at the time under the name Ruff Creek Markets. Their stores were located in PA, northern West Virginia & eastern Ohio. After acquiring the CoGo’s company-owned stores & franchises, Coen Markets reached 66 locations. Coen retained CoGo’s employees, who remained in the same positions with Coen.
Coen Markets was known for its hand-breaded crispy chicken, hand-cut potato wedges & coffee brewed from freshly ground beans. It planned to add deli sandwiches, serve more hot prepared foods & make other improvements in the foods available at its stores. Its locations would be freshened & upgraded.
In late 2020, Coen Markets announced the end of the line for the CoGo’s name. All CoGo’s stores & Ruff Creek Markets – nearly 60 of them by then – would be branded with the Coen name. They would sell Amoco gasoline.
Amoco was a popular American gas station brand for most of the 20th century. It was merged into British Petroleum (BP) in the late 1990s. The Amoco name went away. BP brought the Amoco brand back in a few regions of the U.S. in the late 2010s. One of those regions turn out to be Southwestern PA through the Coen convenience stores.
CoGo’s was born in Carrick & six decades later continues to be operated in Southwestern PA under a different ownership & brand name, putting food into people’s mouths & gas into their cars.