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Oh Thank Heaven:

Locals Love Their 7-Eleven

It's 11:30 a.m. and many landscapers, painters and construction workers have already been on the job for several hours. They're hot, tired, hungry and thirsty. So where do they turn? Many of them find that the local 7-Eleven will take care of all their needs.

Living in this area, it's hard to imagine not having a 7-Eleven to go to. Although they're sometimes taken for granted, they are there when people are looking for a quick bite, a drink or a grocery or two to hold them over.

Amy Smith is a public relations consultant for 7-Eleven and said, "We're really a fixture in people's lives."

They've come a long way from their humble beginnings as an ice dock in a Dallas suburb. Last month on 7-11, 7-Eleven celebrated their 75th anniversary. Stores all over the area celebrated, including the first and oldest-operating 7-Eleven store in Virginia, located at 3901 Lee Highway in Arlington.

Far from a "mom and pop" store, there's a reason why there's always a fresh hot dog on the rotisserie or a recently cooked slice of pizza or fried chicken in the warming ovens. Buying patterns and peak buying times are carefully tracked and charted at each store so that managers have a pretty good idea of when customers are coming in and what they are buying.

When new products are introduced, they are tested in certain markets before they are introduced nation-wide. At the 7-Eleven near the Braddock Road Metro station, they provide samples of products every Thursday. A few weeks ago, they were handing out samples of their Big Eats Deli Sandwiches. Paris Byrd and her brother, Brian Michael Byrd, happened to stop by while they were handing out samples and seemed to enjoy the hearty ham and cheddar with bourbon mustard sauce.

Todd Patrick, district market manager for 7-Eleven, said that they've also been sampling the Go-Go Taquitos, which were introduced in May. These crispy tortillas are filled with beef & cheese, chicken and cheese or Monterey Jack chicken.

"They've really taken off and done better than expected," said Patrick. "People are leaving surprised [at what we have]," said Smith.

FROM SLURPEES after a ball game to a quick hot dog for lunch, 7-Eleven is always there. Stop by the 7-Eleven behind the Hollin Hall Shell on Shenandoah Road during lunchtime and most people would be amazed at how many people go in and out. Between 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., store manager Mohammed Khan will have served several hundred people.

People like John Sullivan, a tile-layer with American Tub & Tile. He said he goes to 7-Eleven every other day. Sometimes he gets a piece of fried chicken, other times he gets some pizza. Robert Davis goes in everyday for coffee and a newspaper.

Christine Rooney's daughter had just finished dance class, so she went in with her children, Jessie, Seamus and Brian and her friend Michelle Downham's children, Jack and Joe. "He's my best customer," said Khan about Rooney's youngest. Their purchase? Slurpees, of course. Eric Lofgren, Charlie Boyce and Tyler Miller stopped by a different type of drink — they left with cans of Red Bull energy drink and Sobe fruit juice.

Look out on Shenandoah Road, and you'll see a line-up of trucks parked in the median. Ed Timmerman, manager for Town & Country Landscaping, said that many of their workers go to 7-Eleven for lunch. "About 15-20 of them go for lunch," he said. "They'll be here for half-hour and then they'll start working again." They'll often find a shady spot by their trucks or under the trees alongside the 7-Eleven.

"You see a cross-section of America in every store," said Patrick.

Pat Eggleston, who owns Eggleston Construction, was grabbing a quick hot dog and said, "I'm in and out of here all day." Robert Dunn works for Boucher Building Co. and is working on a construction site on Northdown Road. He said, "I come in almost every day — morning, middle of the day." John Hackathorn, works at another nearby construction site, grabbed a sandwich, chips and drink. John Peer works for Valley Crest Landscaping and was buying a hot dog. He took advantage of the condiments that are placed in every store. They include the standard ketchup, relish and mustard, but also have a chili and cheese dispenser. Patrick said that some stores also put out lettuce and diced tomatoes.

KHAN HAS BEEN WITH 7-Eleven for 13 years. He has worked in this store about a year and a half. Prior to that, he was at one of the locations on Route One. "That store was much busier and customers more transient. People here know each other," he said.

Each store does have its own flavor. Mohammad Sattar manages the 7-Eleven store near the Braddock Road Metro. His store is busier than the Hollin Hall location and so they have three to four people working behind the counter compared to one to two workers elsewhere.

The store is even busier in the late afternoon as people get off the Metro and stop at 7-Eleven on their way home from work or school.

Sattar said that he gets regular customers from the neighborhood. Davie and Will Legg were painting apartments down the street and stopped in for pizza and a hot dog. "We come in pretty often," said Dave Legg. Tamisha and Markel Stevens sometimes come in for hot dogs, while Darron Mack, Sr. and Darron Mack, Jr. come in drinks.

Wilber Arce is a painter and home remodeler and said, "I come in as many times as I can. Sometimes I get a drink, maybe some fruit or a cheeseburger." He has tried the new deli sandwiches and said that he likes them.

With a Subway sandwich store located next to this location, some customers get their sandwich there and then stop at 7-Eleven for chips or a drink. Edward Hall works on East Del Ray and stopped to buy some Pringles. "I usually stop in to get something," he said.

Randal Browning and Karl Barnes work for the City of Alexandria Fire Department and said that they stop in every now and then. They were buying drinks.

Mithilesh Patel has been the shift manager for the last three years and said, "7-Eleven is a convenience store. Workers come to buy and don't have time to wait. They want something that is fast moving."