More than 40 years since opening its first Detroit store and 11 since closing its last, 7-Eleven Inc. is bringing back its brand of convenience retailing to the Motor City.
Detroit native and new 7-Eleven franchise Robert Taylor celebrated the grand opening of his new store at 2660 E. Jefferson Ave. on Saturday, April 5, from 3p.m.- 6p.m.
Open to the public, the grand-opening event brought music, sampling, discounted food and beverages, coupon giveaways and prizes to customers who visited the Rivertown District store.
In addition to the three-hour party, Taylor invited his neighbors to toast the new store with one of his favorite 7-Eleven products, Slurpee frozen carbonated beverages. During grand-opening hours, small-size Slurpee drinks and Big Bite hot dogs cost just 50 cents each.
The new Detroit 7-Eleven store may be a little different from the ones that residents remember from the 1980s and 1990s. Hot pizza, taquitos, chicken tenders and wings, introduced in stores more recently, are popular items among visitors to the neighborhood store, which opened its doors Feb. 17. Fresh-baked doughnuts and cookies, sandwiches, salads and fresh-cut fruit also are available. Value pricing for the doughnuts, two for $1, and a large, hot pizza at $5.55, have made both items big sellers.
“I’m selling pizza and doughnuts like you wouldn’t believe,” Taylor said.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a 7-Eleven store without Slurpee frozen carbonated drinks and Big Bite hot dogs, two of the retailers’ most iconic products. Taylor said Coney-style hot dogs are big in his hometown, and people like the free chili, cheese and condiment bar to customize their Big Bite hot dogs.
The greater Detroit metropolitan area is considered the Slurpee capital of the U.S. because of the frozen drink’s popularity with local citizens, a fact not lost on the retailer. 7-Eleven has created a Vernor’s Ginger Ale Slurpee flavor that will only be available in its Michigan stores.
With two high schools within walking distance, Taylor said students stop by the store before school for breakfast or a hot drink and after school for Slurpee drinks and snacks.
“Students are a big part of my business,” Taylor said, “and I want them to feel safe and welcome here. I definitely see a big rush when school lets out. I have two entrances into my store, and they’re coming in both of them.”
The store includes a workstation for Detroit police officers to use while in the neighborhood, a fact that is communicated on signage on the store’s doors. “The workstation is a great asset, not only for the store, but also for the neighborhood,” Taylor said, “It makes everyone feel more comfortable.”
Taylor is no newcomer to the fresh foods business. Before acquiring his 7-Eleven franchise, he worked in the marketing departments for other national quick-serve restaurants, and as a franchisee of a casual-dining restaurant. He holds a management and marketing degree from Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. He said he happened to be at the right place at the right time when 7-Eleven moved back to town.
The store’s employees were hired through Michigan Works Association, a workforce development program, and selected for their positive attitudes and hospitality skills. “I can teach them the nuts and bolts of running a store, but I was looking for the things that can’t be taught,” Taylor said. Each of my employees is a great people person.”
Taylor already is planning to open a second store in Detroit’s central business district soon.