The next time you grab a cup of joe or a Slim Jim at the 7-Eleven in Montauk you might want to congratulate Cecilia or Donovan behind the counter.
The Montauk franchise, yeah the one that many locals thought would spoil the ma and pa feel of the hamlet, is the highest grossing of all 7,800 stores in the national franchise chain. With annual sales in the low millions, the Montauk store's owner, Chris Stephens of Syosset, said that he sells about $100,000 in beer and $50,000 in coffee monthly. Not to mention hundreds of brain-freezing Slurpees.
Summer, of course, is the time when volume skyrockets. Through a special corporate strategy, franchisees are encouraged to find merchandise to fit their particular customers’ needs. For Montauk’s flip-flop lifestyle, that means lots of beach umbrellas and boogie boards. Mr. Stephens actually frequents trade shows where he can find the latest “sun and fun” products to satisfy beach-worshipping tourists.
He’s also equipped for rainy days, stocking up on DVDs, checker boards, and coloring books. “It’s about listening and being aware of what they need and having it in stock constantly,” he said.
When he opened the store in 2010 he noticed a lot of trade in marshmallows and graham crackers, so he opened a s’mores department, the only one in the country, where he supplies all the ingredients for America’s favorite beach dessert, including the makings for a fire.
He’s also in the double digits in “fresh food” sales, he said. Think: lots of nachos, sandwiches, and salads shipped in daily. “That’s a tremendous number compared to the rest of the market.” That’s for sure. According to Margaret Chabris, 7-Eleven’s spokeswoman, the Montauk store sells seven times the national average.
Mr. Stephens surely has his finger on the pulse of his customers’ wants. Number two on the list of top grossing 7-Elevens is in East Patchogue, also owned by him. “It’s about keeping it different and fresh,” he said.
Incidentally, 7-Eleven top-seller number three is in Southampton. Not owned by him, alas.