Small shops already feeling the crunch from 7-Eleven

Villager graphic by Pasha Farmanara
Villager graphic by Pasha Farmanara

BY PASHA FARMANARA  |  A new 7-Eleven opened on E. 11th St. and Avenue A on Tues., Oct. 31, despite much opposition from East Village residents in the area. Fitting for the date, Halloween, the store’s appearance was the realization of many neighbors’ worst fears.

Opponents formed the No 7-Eleven campaign, and over the past year, rallied and fought to prevent the store from opening.

In their mission statement, the No 7-Eleven group says they are “taking a stand against the increasing flood of chain stores like 7-Eleven which threaten the free market, damage the local economy and whitewash the character of our communities.”

After the convenience store’s opening, the group held a boycott rally on Sun., Nov. 10, with a turnout of about 20 core supporters.

“We handed out fliers and spoke with people, the vast majority of whom are sympathetic [to our cause]. It’s like a big support group,” said Paul Parks, a leading member of No 7-Eleven. “Many New Yorkers suffer quietly from chain-store fatigue and are excited and heartened to see a group of citizens bringing attention to their concerns.”

Although 7-Eleven is a cheaper alternative to traditional mom-and-pop stores, the majority of local residents The Villager recently polled about the new store agreed with No 7-Eleven. They said they would rather preserve the small businesses in the area than save money.

“I think if it was a 24-hour deli that was run by somebody local, I would be much more appreciative. This neighborhood is more about local business, so I would like to see it taken away,” said Jeremy, an East Villager who only gave his first name.

Residents have noticed an influx of corporate-owned stores in their neighborhood, and despite their disapproval, are expecting to see this trend to continue. In fact, the 7-Eleven on E. 11th St. and Avenue A is the national chain’s fifth store in the surrounding area.

“It changes the ambiance of the East Village,” Brian Appell, a 13-year neighborhood resident, said of the E. 11th St. 7-Eleven. “Next there will be a Starbucks. Everything unique about the East Village is disappearing.”

The new store has already put pressure on small businesses in the area. Tompkins Finest Deli is one of the many businesses that are finding it hard to compete with the chain’s low prices.

“I don’t like it because they take my customers, my business,” the deli’s manager said of the new 7-Eleven. “They are selling everything for half of my prices — but if people want to do something, there is nothing we can do.”

Many feel incapable of stopping chain stores from opening in their neighborhood. Linda Anderson, a shopper at the new 7-Eleven, pointed out that the way to protest the establishment is to avoid it.

“I understand they are coming in everywhere,” she said. “Corporate America has taken over. People talk about how they miss old New York and its mom-and-pop shops. But customers have a choice, and the only way we can talk is with our pocketbooks.”

Currently, the No 7-Eleven coalition plans on growing their social media presence, and also intends to hold a community meeting to discuss the future of chains and franchises in the East Village.