Lake Norman & Mooresville

Get ready for Slurpees

Before the end of the year, Big Bite hot dogs, Slurpee drinks and 16 flavors of coffee will be available locally as 7 Eleven convenience stores will take over three Sam's Mart locations in the Lake Norman area.

Slated to become 7 Elevens are the Sam's Mart stores on Sam Furr Road near Statesville Road and on Rosedale Hill Avenue, near Gilead Road in Huntersville, as well as the store on West Catawba Avenue near Magnolia Estates Drive in Cornelius.

The Rosedale Hill Avenue location will be one of the first stores transformed into a 7 Eleven and will also serve as a training location, said Margaret Chabris, a spokeswoman for 7-Eleven.

The transformation is part of a 55-store acquisition of Sam's Mart stores in the Charlotte area. 7 Eleven officials are quick to point out that the takeover will offer something even more important the firm's well-known retail products: new jobs. They have begun hiring to fill an additional 120 store positions as job offers are being made to personnel working at the stores the company is acquiring. Pay and benefits will be comparable with what they earned at Sam's Mart.

"We want to provide continuity for the 350 store employees coming to us from Sam's Mart," said Doug Doyle, North Carolina native and the new market manager for 7 Eleven's operation in the greater Charlotte area. "We also are seeking quality employees to support our stores' food-service programs that will be offered in the future."

A major unanswered question is how 7 Eleven's entry into the Lake Norman area will affect Cashion's Quik Stop, a locally owned convenience store chain that has five facilities in Cornelius and Huntersville.

Items such as coffee and soda are the biggest in-store traffic driver, while food service is also growing in popularity, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores, so the new competition could draw customers away from Cashion's. "Anytime a well-known brand enters a market, it would be wise for the existing competition such as Cashion's to look at what they can do to retain their customers," said National Association of Convenience Stores Spokesman Jeff Lenard.

While the products inside the transformed Sam's Mart stores will undergo change, the fuel being sold outside will not, at least not initially, according to Chabris. Many fuel contracts run as long as 10 years, and each one will have to be reviewed once the store transformations are complete, she said.

Convenience stores are not only a big business in the Lake Norman area but throughout the entire state and nation. According to Lenard, there are 6,269 convenience stores in North Carolina, which works out to one store per 1,540 people; more stores per capita than many other parts of the country.

Based in Dallas, Texas, 7 Eleven operates, franchises or licenses more than 9,000 stores in North America and 44,300 stores in 16 countries around the world. During 2010, 7 Eleven stores worldwide generated total sales of more than $62.7 billion, according to the company.

The Sam's Mart acquisition is part of 7 Eleven's accelerated growth plan. "The company is committed to growing in the Charlotte area and looking for new locations nearby," said Chabris.

Sam's Mart will continue to operate 91 other stores in the Charlotte and Atlanta Metro areas.