Oh thank heaven – 7-Eleven returns

When Gate Petroleum Company acquired convenience stores in order to enhance direct-to-retail sales of gasoline more than 20 years ago, Herb Peyton needed retail locations beyond Jacksonville — and needed them in a hurry.

Dallas, Texas based 7-Eleven, established in 1927 and then owned by the Southland Corporation, was willing to sell its northeast Florida stores, but Gate would not buy without a no-compete agreement that would keep the 7-Eleven brand out our area for the next two decades.

St. Augustine had 7-Eleven stores in locations like San Marco Avenue, currently the site of the “T-11” — where the made-over sign still bears the familiar 7-Eleven sign shape. In addition to locally owned convenience markets, like Baker’s Curb Mart on Ponce de Leon Boulevard, which was converted to the Davis Upchurch law offices, 7-Eleven was as common in St. Johns County, at that time, as Kangaroo stores are today.

Gate closed and sold most of the 7-Eleven locations where they did not, or could not, sell gasoline; the San Marco store being one example. Just blocks away at the corner of San Marco and Castillo Drive, Palmer’s Gulf Service now a theatre, an Amoco station now a scooter rental, Exxon station now a trolley stop, and, headed north, a Sinclair station, which was converted to an antique store.

Now that the 20-year no-compete agreement has expired, 7-Eleven is heading back northeast Florida with an aggressive re-launch of their popular 20 oz. Gulp, 32 oz. Big Gulp, 44 oz. Super Big Gulp, 64 oz. Double Gulp and a 128 oz. Team Gulp.

The closest 7-Eleven to St. Augustine would have been south of Flagler County, however, the company reports that it is in the process of converting a vacant Jiffy Food Store location in Flagler Beach, across from the Flagler Pier, within the next 60 – 90 days.

A second store will start construction in late December at the intersection of Blanding Boulevard and Constitution Avenue in Orange Park. Other prime sites in St. Johns, Putnam, Clay and Duval counties are marching right behind. The model for the company is to be franchise-owned, tethered to 7-Eleven with available financing and a typical 25% royalty — but, not on sales; on profits.

According to the company, owned by Seven-Eleven Japan Co.,Ltd. since February 2005, the 7-Eleven chain, which currently has 43,300 locations in 16 countries, plans to open 650 new stores this year in the U.S. and Canada, despite the depressed economy.

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