News spread this week about Alma College searching for someone to lease the old 7-Eleven building to give the school (and the community) more convenience.
Alan Gatlin, COO and Vice President for Finance and Administration, gave insight on the process.
“We were all caught off guard when 7-Eleven put up a sign one day over the summer saying, ‘we will be closing in three weeks’” said Gatlin. “As a college, we thought it was important to have a convenience store close to campus for the students, and available for the community. Also, nobody wants to see another vacant building in Alma.”
Gatlin explained how he tried to contact 7-Eleven’s corporate office for information on the convenience store closing and to see if there was anything he or anyone else could do to keep the store running. 7-Eleven’s corporate expressed that there was nothing anyone could do; the decision was made.
A week or two later, the individual who owned the building approached the school and asked if Alma College would be interested in buying the store from him.
“He said he always had a fondness for Alma College, and mentioned that he planned to do something with it in his estate, but said this would be an opportunity for him to do something for the school in advance,” said Gatlin.
“It’s great property. It’s in a prime location and its location is adjacent to property we already own.”
One of the college’s concerns with not buying the property was that they could not control what would go in place of the old 7-Eleven if they did not own the property.
“We felt that accepting the offer was a prudent decision. We started thinking about what we could put in the place of the 7-Eleven, but ultimately decided the best decision would be to put a convenience store in the location, much like before,” said Gatlin.
Now that the college has acquired the property, the school is searching for someone to lease the property out to that could operate the convenience store. Gatlin spoke to current owners of convenience stores before the college obtained the property to study how successful the plan might be, and is confident in the college’s decision.
Many students have expressed their thoughts about the plans.
“Honestly, I’m excited that it’s reopening,” said Gabe Zerbe (’21). “I went [to 7-Eleven] often for caffeine and snacks after Joe’s closed when I needed to stay up late for projects.”
Others had things to say about another convenience store besides Joe’s that is easily accessible to campus.
“It should be reopened because it is convenient for college kids to get things that aren’t offered at Joe’s. It is within walking distance, so it is also convenient for people without a car,” said Joe Tighe (’21).
The lack of a location near campus to purchase alcohol for those that are legal posed a threat to safety, according to some students.
“The 7-Eleven being gone means everyone has to drive across town to purchase alcohol and that could possibly pose some risks, whereas having a nearby solution that doesn’t require driving a vehicle is a good risk prevention tactic,” said Kody Murphy (’19).
Gatlin did mention, however, that the college will not be involved in the day to day operations of the store, meaning the people who decide to lease the building will decide what merchandise to carry, as well as hours they will operate.
Gatlin hopes to find someone to lease the space out to within the next 90 days, and hopes to have the business up and running within 6 months. He has shown the building to two potential operators already, with a third potential operator being shown it this week. All the people up for consideration have already owned and operated their own convenience stores.