Brooklyn wouldn’t be Brooklyn if it weren’t for our small army of bodega owners who've set up camp on nearly every street corner. We rely on our local merchants for our cigarettes, the late-night drunk food we know we'll regret a few hours later, the extra quarters we need to run the washing machines in our basements. Not to mention all the local gossip we pick up in our daily visits or just a familiar face handing us our change over the counter at the end of the day. But another business has its eye on this niche market—one that specializes in Slurpees and Taquitos and has been gradually colonizing its way across New York's five boroughs.
7-Eleven, the Dallas-based chain of convenience stores recently named the ninth fastest growing franchise of 2012, plans to open 30 new outlets across the city over the next five years. What does this mean for Brooklyn residents? If you find yourself craving 3-for-$1 mini donuts or a Big Gulp fountain soda that can range from 20 to 64 ounces, you are in luck. If the thought of using your power of consumer choice to fill the corporate coffers of a franchise with 46,000 outlets worldwide makes your skin crawl, you might not be so thrilled.
In an effort to be more accommodating, 7-Eleven executives have rolled out a business conversion plan: rather than closing their doors permanently, existing bodegas can rebrand themselves as 7-Eleven stores.
The benefits of this tradeoff? Business owners can leverage 7-Eleven’s brand awareness, take advantage of their product line, and buying power. The disadvantages? Let’s turn to the East Village in Manhattan, where 7-Elevenification is already in full swing. With five new outlets opening in the past few years, some East Villagers fear their neighborhood is being homogenized by the iconic red-and-green corporate sign. No matter what Slurpee-brewing outlet they walk into, 7-Eleven aficionados know they will always find the same great flavors, the same Corn Dog Rollers and Big Bite Hotdogs.
What some call homogenization, though, 7-Eleven owners call streamlining. And besides, even though the rest of New York City is no longer allowed to sell large sugary drinks, 7-Eleven Inc. retains that right going into the indefinite future. Bring on the 64-ounce fountain drinks?