Heaven can wait — or deny admittance — but not much longer. A 7-Eleven store finally will open downtown after searching the financial district for nearly a year.
The world's largest retailer by number of stores (47,600 and counting), 7-Eleven expects to open at 10th and Main streets, on the first floor of the American Heritage Building, by mid- to late October, company spokesman Scott Drake says.
"I think everybody's excited about it," says Ron Hunt, owner of the building built in 1904. The structure has 57 apartments, Hunt says, and has been looking for a first-floor retail tenant.
The store will fill a retail void downtown. Still without a critical mass of residents living in the area, most stores aren't open after 6 or 7 p.m., content with serving downtown workers who flood the streets during lunch hours. (The new 7-Eleven will be open 24 hours).
Originally known as Tote'm stores in the 1920s, the company famously changed its name to 7-Eleven in 1946 to reflect new store hours, open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., seven days a week. The chain essentially created the convenience store concept (hence the slogan, "Oh, thank Heaven for 7-Eleven"), and grew into a powerhouse with self-serve soda fountains — which led to the Big Gulp — the first retail microwaves and Slurpees. Not to mention its knack for turning noncylindrical foods into cylinders, such as cheeseburgers and buffalo-chicken rollers to go with its more famous Big Bite hot dogs.
Some may not welcome the purveyor of mystery meats and giant sodas, but it will fill a niche downtown. It doesn't even bother hot dog vendor Ed Claiborne, who's operated a cart, Red Deluxe Hot Dogs, at 10th and Main streets for 10 years.
"It's going to bring more people to the area," he says, adding that he isn't worried about the competition. "If you want a really good hot dog, that's what I'm here for."
Correction: In the print version of this story, the headline incorrectly stated that the new 7-Eleven was downtown's first. There was a 7-Eleven years ago at Eighth and East Broad streets.