Westside 7-Eleven: Pawn in a corporate chess game

Posted on February 18, 2012

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If you’re not happy about a proposed 7-Eleven on Olympia’s Westside (see herehere and here), know that lots of other folks around the world may be in a similar boat. According to CNN Money, last year 7-Eleven surpassed 40,000 locations, which is more retail outlets than McDonald’s. Yet 7-Eleven is still adding a new store every three-and-a-half hours. This aggressive expansion is playing out as at least one industry analyst wonders whether the convenience store market may have reached a point of saturation, reports Beth Kowitt.

This is why the proposed construction of a 7-Eleven on the corner of Harrison and Division represents a greater risk than converting a competitor’s store. For example, 7-Eleven has recently announced the purchase of 28 stores and sites from Pacific Convenience & Fuels LLC55 Sam’s Mart stores and 51 ExxonMobil stores and sites.

However, according to a store locator, 7-Eleven — which is a subsidiary of a Japanese-owned holding company — currently has only five stores in the Olympia area and none on Olympia’s Westside.

Portland, Oregon a target for expansion

KATU.com reports that Portland is among the markets that 7-Eleven has embarked on an “accelerated growth plan.” Last year the Woodstock Neighborhood Association unsuccessfully fought a proposed store because “they thought it would bring an increase in crime and traffic. The location is also the gateway to the Woodstock neighborhood and they didn’t think a 7-Eleven convenience store would set the right tone,” reports Shannon L. Cheesman.

Now 7-Eleven has announced plans to build new stores in the Vernon and St. John’s neighborhoods — and more could be on the way. The announced sites are zoned for commercial storefront, reports Cheesman.

The city’s Office of Neighborhood Involvement requires convenience stores to come up with a “Good Neighbor Agreement” that addresses issues such as loitering, alcohol use, litter control, neighbor relations and landscaping, reports OregonLive.com. However, the agreement need not be approved by the neighborhood in order for the store to be built, reports KATU.com’s Cheesman.

There goes the neighborhood

Other communities where a 7-Eleven has recently faced resistance include Nutley, New Jersey; New Haven, Connecticut; and West Islip, New York.

The stories all have a certain sameness about them. Residents tend to be caught flatfooted by a proposal and flounder around trying to understand the land-use laws and rules that may apply to a given situation. And despite sometimes heated debate, the stores invariably go through. One might argue that zoning provides the developer with more protection than a neighborhood, e.g., unless a comprehensive plan is written tightly and is in sync with current zoning.

So the 7-Elevens keep sprouting. And, at best, neighborhoods such as Portland’s Woodstock get some type of accommodation, such as minimizing signage and a corporate donation to the neighborhood association.

“So it has not been all bad,” a Woodstock neighborhood association spokesperson told KATU.com of the recently opened store. “Still, we do not find 7-Eleven a vital part of the neighborhood at all.”

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