WICKER PARK — A 7-Eleven across from the neighborhood's namesake park that went from being franchisee-owned to corporately-run after a crackdown resulted in the chain seizing control of several Chicago-area stores is back to being run by an independent guy.
"We will bring in Heineken, more premium beers and more wine," said Harish Doshi, the new owner of 7-Eleven at 1508 N. Damen Ave.
The busy 7-Eleven employed a staff of nine until last Tuesday, when all but two of the workers were transferred to other stores, said Doshi.
Doshi, who plans to run the store with his wife and son as well as new workers yet to be hired, said he wants to implement "friendlier service" and have staff offer a greeting of "hello" within seven seconds of customers' walking in the door.
"This is a neighborhood store. People can tell us what they want to see in terms of products and we will do our best," Doshi said.
Doshi, a healthcare consultant and former medical doctor in India, came to the United States in 2006. The store, operating under the entity Jugshilp, Inc., will be Doshi's first 7-Eleven.
7-Eleven, 1508 N. Damen Ave. (DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser)
To augment his new workforce, a "Now Hiring" sign hangs in the window. Over the past week, most of the familiar faces, a cadre of workers hired by the Dallas-based corporation to run the store after it ousted a former franchisee in 2013, have moved to other 7-Elevens.
Before transferring to a Northwest Side 7-Eleven, Esha Wood, a 22-year-old cashier, said she was sad to leave.
"I love my customers; I will miss the regulars," said Wood, who had worked at the 7-Eleven for almost two years, since franchisee Jay Rawal was stripped of four 7-Elevens, including the Wicker Park 7-Eleven, and three others in Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square and Boystown.
At the time, 7-Eleven officials alleged that Rawal had been selling unapproved products, such as Sunkist.
As of Tuesday, there are 315 franchised stores and 42 company-operated 7-Elevens in the Chicago area, including some training stores, though the numbers change regularly as the corporation opens and closes locations, said Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman for Dallas-based 7-Eleven.
"We are a franchised-store company and want our stores to be run by local business people that develop strong ties with their customers, neighborhoods and communities they serve," Chablis said.
Owner-operators, or franchisees, buy licenses from a corporation in order to operate chain stores. The majority of the 7-Elevens in the United States are franchisee-owned, with start-up costs for a single 7-Eleven reportedly ranging from $30,000 to $1.5 million.
Rawal, who now work as a gas station manager in Lombard, said Tuesday he was not surprised the store was sold again and he wishes success to Doshi.
The Illinois Lottery machine was out of service for about a day after the 7-Eleven changed ownership. Also, the store has not been able to accept Illinois EBT LINK card payments since last Tuesday, citing system issues, or being "down," according to signs.
Chablis sad that all 7-Elevens, as part of franchisee agreements, are required to accept LINK cards, and that anytime there is a change in ownership, the new operator must apply for a new LINK license to accept EBT.
"It typically takes five to seven weeks for the license to be issued to the new operator, whether it is 7-Eleven, Inc. (the company) or a new franchisee," Chabris said.
Signs at the Wicker Park 7-Eleven. (DNAinfo/Alisa Hauser)
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