Students craving for a Slurpee now need to look no further than State Street for a Hawaiian Punch or Coca-Cola frozen treat.
A new 7-Eleven opened early this month at 318 S. State St. in the retail space formerly occupied by Ritz Camera. While some Ann Arbor residents have expressed concern about the chain displacing a local business, the convenience store’s owner, Linda Russ, is striving to prove its place in the community.
Russ said she hopes the store will quickly become a part of Ann Arbor and a place cherished by its residents.
“We’re not looking to be an outsider chain,” Russ said. “We’re part of the city.”
Russ said she would like the store to become a member of the State Street Association and the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce in an effort to create more of a community-oriented establishment.
“We’ve had some people come in and say that we are eliminating the mom and pop shops,” Russ said. “We’re not eliminating anybody.”
Diane Keller, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the new 7-Eleven’s chain-store affiliation wouldn’t hamper Russ’s efforts to gain membership to the chamber.
“We’ve got a lot of organizations that are chains that are members of the chamber of commerce,” Keller said.
When asked her opinion on the criticism that 7-Eleven has faced from local residents, Keller said it’s important to note how chain stores in the area are able to serve the specific communities where they’re open for business.
“If a business is conscientious of the needs of its community, then that’s what counts,” Keller said.
Russ said the State Street 7-Eleven’s main clientele are students. A study lounge in the upper level of the store is opening soon and will have tables, chairs and couches to seat 47 people. The space will also feature artwork from University students.
She added that the lounge will be cleaned frequently and equipped with security cameras to ensure that it remains a safe, clean place to study.
“No smoking, no drinking, no sleeping,” Russ said.
Since its opening, Russ said business has been steadily on the rise as more students have become aware of it.
“We started off slow in the beginning,” Russ said. “Now we’re starting to pick up.”
While the store is open 24 hours a day, Russ said peak hours are between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. In addition to the store’s student clients, the store also caters to a variety of groups in the area, including police officers, city personnel and construction workers, Russ said.
The store will also begin selling beer and wine after receiving a liquor license from the city of Ann Arbor, Russ said, though she added that she doesn’t know when the store will receive the license.
Russ said she doesn’t view her store as a competitor to the locally-owned Diag Party Shoppe, located several doors down from 7-Eleven on State Street. The nearby Diag Party Shoppe is not a member of the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Regional Chamber of Commerce, according to the chamber’s website.
“I don’t think we’re competing because we have a different product line,” Russ said. “Our prices are lower.”
Russ said Jerome Kamano, owner of Diag Party Shoppe, visited her store recently and commented on how 7-Eleven’s low prices will affect his business.
“He’s already been in here and did a tour, and asked us to do some things to work with him,” Russ said.
But Russ said she wouldn’t make any accommodations for Kamano.
“We’re not going to raise our prices to match neighbors’ prices,” Russ said. “We have a fair price.”
When asked about the interaction with Russ, Kamano said he didn’t ask the 7-Eleven owner to raise prices when he toured the store, adding that the products are already expensive.
“Her prices are not cheap,” Kamano said. “She’s very high on a lot of her items.”
Kamano said he instead advised Russ on ways to safeguard her store against theft and that he isn’t worried about the competition between the two stores.
“I was just trying to be nice to her as a friendly neighbor,” Kamano said. “I’m not mad she’s here. If she wants to pay that $17,000 a month rent, I’m more than happy.”
After visiting 7-Eleven several times last week, Art & Design sophomore Tiffany Hu said she was impressed with the variety of products the store offers and is looking forward to the forthcoming lounge.
“It’s convenient for students,” Hu said.
Ann Arbor resident Ryan Nisbett said he isn’t happy about another chain moving in, and that he’s worried about what this will do to business for local companies.
“The Diag (Party Shoppe) down here is probably going to start suffering,” Nisbett said.