Title:
Drive-by building with temperature-controlled exterior display cabinets
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A building for use as a drive-by retail store, including a floor, a roof, a plurality of walls extending from the floor to the roof and defining a perimeter, at least one access door, and at least one cashier's station located at one end of the building. The perimeter is substantially formed by a plurality of temperature-controlled display cabinets, wherein the display cabinets have transparent exterior walls and interior access doors.



Inventors:
Sullivan, Kathy Litton (North Augusta, SC, US)
Application Number:
10/219512
Publication Date:
02/20/2003
Filing Date:
08/15/2002
Assignee:
SULLIVAN KATHY LITTON
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
312/116, 52/750
International Classes:
A47F10/02; E04H14/00; (IPC1-7): E04H6/42; E01F9/00; E04B1/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
KATCHEVES, BASIL S
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Kathy L. Sullivan (North Augusta, SC, US)
Claims:

What is claimed is:



1. A building for use as a retail store, said building comprising: a floor; a roof; a plurality of walls extending from said floor to said roof, said walls defining a perimeter of said building; at least one access door located within one of said walls; and a plurality of display cabinets each having an interior, a substantially transparent exterior wall, and an interior service door, said service door adapted for accessing said interior of said display cabinet from an interior of said building, said plurality of display cabinets together forming a substantial portion of said perimeter; and at least one cashier's station located within said building, said cashier's station having an access opening in one of said plurality of walls.

2. The building as recited in claim 1, further comprising an awning extending outwards from said roof.

3. The building as recited in claim 1, further comprising an employee break area located within said interior of said building.

4. The building as recited in claim 1, further comprising lighting means operably connected to each of said plurality of display cabinets

5. The building as recited in claim 1, further comprising temperature-controlling means operably connected to each of said plurality of display cabinets.

6. The building as recited in claim 1, wherein said plurality of display cabinets each have side walls, further comprising insulating means engaging said side walls.

7. The building as recited in claim 1, further comprising means carried by each of said display cabinets for connecting a wall of one of said plurality of display cabinets to an adjacent wall of another of said display cabinets.

8. The building as recited in claim 1, wherein said substantially transparent exterior wall is made of a vandal-resistant material.

9. A temperature-controlled display cabinet, said display cabinet comprising. a housing having a top wall, a bottom wall, a pair of spaced-apart side walls, a substantially transparent front wall, and a rear wall, said side walls, said front wall, and said rear wall extending from said top wall to said bottom wall and together defining a perimeter of said display cabinet, a service door in said rear wall, said service door adapted for accessing said interior of said display cabinet, temperature-controlling means operably connected to said interior; and lighting means operably connected to said interior.

10. The display cabinet as recited in claim 9, further comprising insulating means engaging said side walls.

11. The display cabinet as recited in claim 9, further comprising means carried by each of said side walls for connecting a side wall of said display cabinet to an adjacent side wall of another display cabinet.

12. The display cabinet as recited in claim 9, wherein said substantially transparent front wall is made of a vandal-resistant material.

13. The display cabinet as recited in claim 9, further comprising at least one shelf in said interior.

14. The display cabinet as recited in claim 9, further comprising at least one adjustable shelf in said interior.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] 1. Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention relates to buildings used for retail sales. In particular, the present invention relates to a modular, drive-by/drive-through building having exterior walls in the form of temperature-controlled display cabinets for storing perishable goods offered for sale to consumers.

[0003] 2. Discussion of Background

[0004] Drive-by stores, particularly fast food stores, are well known to consumers; drive-through stores, while less common, are also known. These types of stores are especially prevalent in the banking, fast food, and dry cleaning businesses (for purposes of this specification, the terms “drive-by” and “drive-through” are used interchangeably). The convenience of shopping from one's own automobile was noted early in the twentieth century by Grant (U.S. Pat. No 1,751,199), who shows a drive-through self-serving store with rotatable display racks that can be reached by either drivers or pedestrians. On her way into the store, the driver can pick up a basket designed to fit on her car's running board.

[0005] Bared, et al. (U.S. Pat. No. 5,727,352) discloses a convenience store consisting of a prefabricated, drive-by building with a canopy, display windows for non-refrigerated goods, and a door where the driver interacts with store employees A walk-in cooler with inside and outside access doors is installed in one corner of the store; the outside access door is used for deliveries.

[0006] Hooker (U.S. Pat. No. D296,473) shows a building that resembles a mid-twentieth-century diner, with windows (including a cashier's window) and a canopy Davis, et al. (U.S. Pat. No. D153,505) disclose a building with several windows on each wall, an access door, and a canopy.

[0007] A wide variety of interior and exterior designs for retail stores are available, including booths, stores offering more-or-less traditional customer service, and self-service stores. By way of example, Bayless (U.S. Pat. No 4,821,469) provides a booth (termed a “library structure”) for storing a library of real estate video tapes in an organized fashion. The booth includes a series of storage cabinets and several centrally-located viewing rooms. Slide shows are presented to passers-by using two large-screen monitors viewed through transparent wall sections.

[0008] Harris (U.S. Pat. No. 4,288,948) shows a store intended for use in a shopping mall. The walls, ceiling, floor, and display units have a combination of reflective and nonreflective surfaces in two colors to create the effect of spaciousness and unity. The freestanding display units are arranged so as to present an angular front to increase access and visibility De Leu (U.S. Pat. No. D395,521) shows a boutique interior with counters, wall cabinets, a checkerboard-type floor covering, and recessed lighting.

[0009] Self-service store layouts include Searcy's store arrangement (U.S. Pat. No. 4,154,027) provides a combination check-out and service area approximately in the center, and self-service shelves around the service area so that customers can see where different products are located. The service area includes cheese, meats, and bakery items A cooler with glass display doors is placed against one wall Ellis (U.S. Pat. No. 1,882,488) discloses a store having outside display windows, a pair of turnstiles and a cashier's desk at the entrance. Customers take their choices from merchandise which is displayed on a conveyor having a series of vertically-disposed display racks. The conveyor is positioned so that passers-by can see the merchandise through the outside windows.

[0010] Trapp (U.S. Pat. No. 1,510,435) shows a self-service store having a plurality of vending machines arranged for easy access by the customers, who enter the store via turnstiles. The vending machines are arranged edge-to-edge, angled to form a series of alcoves. The cashier's station is placed near the entrance to give the cashier a good view of the entire store. Carroll's self-service store (U.S. Pat. No. 1,474,106) has a turnstile and a triangular cashier's station at the entrance. A series of shelves are arranged around the sides of the store; additional display space is provided by transverse tables (or more shelves). Anderson (U.S. Pat. No. 1,461,374) discloses a self serving store with shelves and cabinets disposed at angles, a centrally located ice box, checker's stands, and turnstiles at the entrance. The front wall has plate glass windows through which passers-by can see the contents of some of the display bins.

[0011] Many factors enter into the design of a drive-by store, including the provision of display space, storage space, work and break areas for employees, and safe and efficient access by customers. Construction costs are a factor in cases where the store owner rents or leases the land where the store is located, particularly if the store is a permanent structure rather than a transportable building that can be moved when the term expires. Design flexibility is also a factor, since the size and layout of the store may need to be modified to suit a particular site, or to expand as the customer base increases

[0012] Drive-by stores are common in the fast food sector, but are seldom found in other sectors of the retail sales industry This lack is at least partly due to the fact that drive-by stores inherently have limited display space for the goods being offered to consumers: a drive-by store simply cannot offer the thousands of different products which are available at any supermarket. In addition, there are no known display cabinets which target the drive-by sales sector, which requires cabinets where the goods offered for sale can be maintained at controlled temperatures. Thus, there is a need for a drive-by store with temperature-controlled display cabinets where the goods can easily be viewed from a customer's vehicle, and which can readily be accessed from the store's interior to remove sold goods or change the display. An ideal display cabinet of this type would be usable as the exterior wall of the store.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0013] According to its major aspects and broadly stated, the present invention includes a building for use as a drive-by store. The building includes a floor, a roof, a plurality of walls extending from the floor to the roof and defining a perimeter of the building, at least one access door, and at least one cashier's station preferably located at one end of the building The walls are substantially formed by a plurality of generally adjacent, temperature-controlled display cabinets, wherein the display cabinets have transparent exterior walls and interior access doors that allow employees to access the interiors to remove purchased goods or change the displays

[0014] The dimensions of the building, and of the display cabinet, may vary widely according to factors such as the types and amounts of goods to be stored therein, local building codes, and so forth Either the building or the display cabinet, or both, may include display signs, interior and exterior lighting, additional storage, and such other accessories as may be useful for the particular application A building according to the invention may be used for any drive-through business where the customer wishes to visually inspect the goods prior to placing his or her order. Thus, the invention is particularly suitable for a business that deals in perishable goods such as specialty foods (cheeses, delicatessen goods, seafood, meats, poultry, baked goods, or fresh produce), live plants or cut flowers, and the like. The building is such that the customer can drive by, readily examine the goods offered for sale, and select the particular goods to buy, all from the comfort and convenience of his or her own automobile.

[0015] The building is an important feature of the present invention. The building may be of any suitable construction, but is preferably a prefabricated, modular building which may assume any convenient size, configuration, and number of modules (i e., temperature-controlled display cabinets, otherwise termed “coolers”) as may be needed for the particular application. The building may include features such as an accessible bathroom for customers, work tables, and an awning to provide shade and shelter customers from inclement weather.

[0016] The temperature-controlled display cabinet, or cooler, is another important feature of the present invention. The cooler includes a substantially transparent front, or exterior wall which allows drive-by or walk-by customers to view the goods offered for sale. The cooler may include lights, heating and cooling equipment, alarms, adjustable shelving, and other features that may be useful for any particular application. The side walls are preferably insulated, may be load-bearing or non-load-bearing, and may be of tongue-and-groove or other suitable construction for securing one cooler to another.

[0017] Another feature of the present invention is the front wall of the cooler, which is made of glass, PLEXIGLAS, LEXAN, LUCITE, or other material, preferably a substantially vandal-proof or vandal-resistant material. Tinted materials, or materials with thermally-insulating barriers, may be useful to help reduce condensation on glass, and also to reduce heating and cooling costs for the cooler (and the building of which it forms a part).

[0018] Other features and advantages of the present invention will be apparent to those skilled in the art from a careful reading of the Detailed Description of Preferred Embodiments presented below and accompanied by the drawings

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0019] In the drawings,

[0020] FIG. 1 shows a floor plan of a drive-by building according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention,

[0021] FIG. 2 is a top plan view of a temperature-controlled display cabinet according to the invention,

[0022] FIG. 3 is a rear view of the display cabinet of FIG. 2, as seen from the interior of the building of FIG. 1;

[0023] FIG. 4 is a front view of the display cabinet of FIG. 2, as seen from outside the building of FIG. 1; and

[0024] FIG. 5 is a side elevational view of the building of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

[0025] In the following detailed description of the invention, reference numerals are used to identify structural elements, portions of elements, surfaces or areas in the drawings, as such elements, portions, surfaces or areas may be further described or explained by the entire written specification. For consistency, whenever the same numeral is used in different drawings, it indicates the same element, portion, surface or area as when first used. Unless otherwise indicated, the drawings are intended to be read together with the specification, and are to be considered a portion of the entire written description of this invention as required by 35 U.S.C. § 112. As used herein, the terms “horizontal,” “vertical,” “left,” right,” “up,” “down,” as well as adjectival and adverbial derivatives thereof, refer to the relative orientation of the illustrated structure as the particular drawing figure faces the reader.

[0026] Referring now to FIG. 1, there is shown a view of the floor plan of a drive-by building 10 according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention. Building 10 may be of the type referred to in the construction trade as “stick-built” or “site-built.” Preferably, however, building 10 is a prefabricated, modular building which may have virtually any convenient size and number of modules.

[0027] The exterior walls of building 10 are substantially made up of a plurality of temperature-controlled display cabinets (also termed “coolers”) 12a-12f, of a type and construction to be described further below An interior 14 of building 10 may include any or all of a variety of furnishings, including but not necessarily limited to one or more workbenches 16, an employee break area 18 (which may be provided with a table and chairs, refrigerator, microwave, sink, etc), and a bathroom 20 (preferably a bathroom having universally-accessible facilities)

[0028] A sales area 30 is positioned at one end of building 10. Sales area 30 includes at least one cashier's station, preferably a plurality of cashier's stations 32a-32c where a customer can interact with a cashier from his/her automobile. Stations 32a-32c can also be used by walk-by customers. Stations 32a-32c have suitable equipment for retail sales (cash registers, computer terminals, telephone or radio sets for communicating with customers, chairs or stools, etc) Such equipment is usable with the invention, but does not itself form a part of the invention

[0029] An awning 34a extends along the sides and rear of building 10; awnings 34b and 34c are placed at stations 32a-32c. Awnings 34a-34c serve a dual function, the awnings help shade display cabinets 12a-12f and the interior of building 10, thereby helping reduce heating and cooling costs for the building. In addition, the awnings provide a measure of protection for customers and employees during inclement weather.

[0030] An entrance 36 is equipped with a door or doors 38, which may be automatic doors or indeed any other suitable types. A ramp 40 extends from entrance 36 to the ground Additional entrances may be provided, for example, building 10 may include at least one emergency exit in or near sales area 30. In general, the structure of building 10 is readily modifiable to meet applicable building codes.

[0031] A temperature-controlled display cabinet 12a according to a preferred embodiment of the present invention is shown in FIGS. 2-4. Display cabinet 12a has a front wall 50, a rear wall 52, side walls 54a, 54b, a bottom 56, and a top 58. One or more lights 60 are installed near top 58; an evaporator coil 62 (connected to any suitable type of refrigeration unit) is shown as 62. Lights 60 may be fluorescent, incandescent, or some combination thereof, as may be convenient, and may be controlled manually or automatically via input from timers, photoelectric sensors, motion detectors, or other suitable devices. Display cabinet 12a may also include any suitable equipment for controlling the humidity in its interior

[0032] In addition to refrigeration provided by evaporator coil 62, display cabinet 12a (and building 10) may also include a heater, condensing units, electrical wiring and electrical outlets (both interior and exterior), plumbing, and other suitable accessories These may be provided in any combination needed for the particular application and location of the display cabinet, and according to the particular layout of building 10.

[0033] Side walls 54a, 54b are insulated, and are preferably at least approximately 4″ thick; the type of insulation depends on the desired R-value, and is preferably at least equal to the minimum required by applicable local building codes. The side walls may include structural features that allow them to be easily connected with additional display cabinets of the same type, partitions, walls or the like. These features depend on whether side walls 54a, 54b are load-bearing or non-load-bearing. Alternatively, the side walls are such that display cabinet 12a can be used as a stand-alone unit.

[0034] Front wall 50 is substantially transparent, and is made of glass, PLEXIGLAS, LUCITE, or other suitable material. Front wall 50 is preferably made of bullet-proof, vandal-proof, shatter-resistant materials (that is, materials that are at least somewhat resistant to breakage are generally preferred). If desired, front wall 50 can include a thermally-insulating barrier to help reduce condensation as well as heating and cooling costs. Tinted glass or plastic may also be useful

[0035] Rear wall 52 includes access doors of any suitable design, which allow employees to access the interior of display cabinet 12a The doors may be sliding or hinged, or consists of flaps or other barriers made of glass, mirrored materials, plastic, rubber, or indeed any materials that help maintain a stable temperature in the interior of display cabinet 12a.

[0036] The base of display cabinet 12a (bottom wall 56) can be fabricated so as to form part of the structure of building 10; the display cabinet may in some cases be a load-bearing part of building 10. Alternatively, display cabinet 12a can be freestanding, and may include slides, casters, rollers, or other devices that help the user move the display cabinet to and from a selected location

[0037] When installed in building 10, front wall 50 is positioned behind a facade 62, which is preferably at least approximately 3″-4″ high (FIG. 5) Thus, the contents of display cabinets 12a-12f are visible to drive-by and walk-by customers. The display cabinets (and their contents) are generally protected from accidental contact with passing automobiles by suitable barriers (not shown).

[0038] Display cabinet 12a also includes shelves 64 mounted to supports 66. Shelves 64, which may be made of metal, glass, wood, or plastic, are preferably adjustable so as to accommodate a variety of sizes and shapes of goods.

[0039] The dimensions of display cabinet 12a (height, length, depth, and width) may vary widely, according to factors such as the types and amounts of goods to be stored therein, local building codes, the size of building 10, and so forth. Building 10 and display cabinet 12a may also include display signs, interior and exterior lighting, additional storage (including temperature-controlled storage), an outdoor sales and service area, and such other accessories as may be useful for the particular application.

[0040] Building 10 may be used for any drive-through business where it is considered useful for the customer to view the goods prior to placing her order. Display cabinet 12a is particularly suitable for storing and displaying perishable goods such as foods (baked goods, cheeses, wines, fresh produce, meats, seafood, poultry, and delicatessen-type foods), live plants or cut flowers, and the like. Exterior wall 50 of display cabinet 12a allows the customer to drive by (or walk by), see the goods offered for sale, and select and buy the particular goods she wants, all from the comfort and convenience of her own automobile.

[0041] With respect to the above description of the invention, it is to be realized that the optimum dimensional relationships for the parts of the invention, to include variations in size, materials, shape, form, function and manner of operation, assembly and use, are deemed readily apparent and obvious to one skilled in the art, and all equivalent relationships to those illustrated in the drawings and described in the specification are intended to be encompassed by the present invention.

[0042] Therefore, the foregoing description is considered as illustrative only of the principles of the invention. Further, since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, it is not desired to limit the invention to the exact construction and operation shown and described, and accordingly, all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to, falling within the scope of the invention. Thus, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that many changes and substitutions can be made to the preferred embodiment herein described without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims.