Whether it’s a 7-Eleven, a Wawa, or a local gas station mini-mart, there’s a nostalgic joy that accompanies popping into a convenient store at any time for a cup of coffee, newspaper, or to satisfy a Tic Tac craving. And while 7-Eleven might not be the pinnacle of localized chain shopping, some entrepreneurial cool-kids are creating their own niche convenient stores that are. With a focus on organic food, local ingredients, international snacks, or eco-conscious practices, these convenience stores are redefining the slushie-laden shops of your youth. While some are a long ways away from reaching Shake Shack-level domination, we want these modern convenience stores to expand nationally. With the same ‘pop-in’ familiarity, we welcome a new age of provincial shopping where quality is convenient.
If you’re among the throngs of Momofuku-lovers heading to Hudson Yards to dine at David Chang’s latest restaurant, Kåwi, don’t overlook his new grab-and-go spot, Peach Mart. Reminiscent of popular convenience stores in Asia, Peach Mart’s tiny space is chock full of snacks and familiar sweets: Calbee honey butter chips, matcha-flavored Tohato corn puffs, Bourbon peach-flavored gummies shaped like fettuccine, and classics like spicy ramen cups and Pocky. The small menu of neatly-boxed prepared foods includes kimbap (Korean rolls with fillings like omelet or mortadella and cheese) and squishy Japanese milk bread sandwiches, an Asian convenience store staple.
With two hip locations (one in Los Angeles, the other in New York City), this is the local gas station mini mart of the eco-conscious future. Founder Rachel Krupa believes in creating eco-responsible retail spaces that engage and support local communities in making healthy, local, organic food affordable and accessible to everyone (think piles of fresh produce, organic slushies, Beanfields Nacho Cheese chips, and an amazing cup of $2 coffee). Instead of high fructose corn syrup, Fritos, and a mealy apple, the market’s bright interior hosts organic kombucha slushies, Epic’s oven-baked pork rinds, $4 burritos, and locally-sourced organic produce.
In Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood Regular Visitors is an early morning corner stop for locals en route to the subway. But unless you consciously ignore the shelves stocked with a curated selection of artfully crafted housewares, niche magazines, trending cookbooks and artbooks, and a swoon-worthy apothecary section, it’s impossible to merely grab your coffee (or kombucha on tap if you wish), croissant, and newspaper and run to catch the F train. With a round, marble-clad coffee bar in the middle, the shop’s walls display a perfectly edited newsstand, specialty goods like Black Pepper Simple Syrup by Blank Slate Kitchen or cans of Bianco di Napoli organic tomatoes, non-toxic cleaning products by Common Good, and sleek home wares like a minimalist’s dream dishdrain by Yamazaki. In other words, it’s hard to get out of this place.
Commonly referred to as “the mother and father of the modern day convenience store,” Barbara and Lonnie Allsup were among the first c-store owners to offer 24-hour service and fresh, enticing food made on site. (Meaning there’s plenty to enjoy while filling up your gas tank). What started as an effort to drive sales (originally serving rotisserie chickens and sausages), has now lead to 300+ Allsup’s locations throughout New Mexico and Texas. But the rest of the country shouldn’t be deprived of Allsup’s enticing fried cheese curds, succulent pork tamales, and the famous beef and bean deep-fried burritos (for which regulars come from far and wide to buy in bulk).
In downtown Denver, Choice Market is a fail-safe, one-stop shop combining farmer’s market quality with corner store convenience. This open kitchen serves vegan tofu bibimbaps and colorful organic salads with local ingredients like Aspen Ridge flank steak, Haystack Mountain goat cheese, and chimichurri vinaigrette. But should you have the late night munchies (it is Colorado) snacks like organic beet chips, Tates cookies, craft beer, or classic craveables like M&Ms (when a Larabar simply doesn’t cut it) are ready for the taking 24 hours a day.
Bringing the grab-and-go utility of your local corner store to the lobby of your office building, Bridges General Store is reimagining the scale and purpose of modern convenience in New York City and San Francisco. This is where you’ll grab a Blue Print coffee or a Vybes organic CBD beverage, and a non GMO Hu Kitchen Chocolate bar, because, you know, Wednesday. And on that fateful day when you’ve arrived at work only to realize that you forgot to put on deodorant, EO Deodorant wipes and an assortment of Boy Smells candles are just a few dollars away. It’s what working at Google must be like except you have to pay for everything. With several locations in New York and San Francisco, and goals to open another 100 locations by 2020, Bridges General is fast becoming a working convenience phenomenon.
If you have ever spent time in upstate New York or Southern Vermont you have likely passed or frequented at least one Stewart’s to get gas and of course a scoop of their silky ice cream. Returning locals and highway travelers have made this family-owned business a massively successful regional chain with over 300 locations. Originally a dairy operation dating back to 1917, Stewart’s is largely known for their local dairy foods and beverages, but their brand has extended to include unique coffee blends and indulgent snacks like kettle-cooked potato chips, salted caramel chocolate bars, and chocolate chip cookies to name a few. Local milk and quality ingredients still make up their growing variety of ice cream flavors like Blueberry Pie in the Sky, Espresso Therapy, and Maple Walnut. And if you’ve never tried Stewart’s chocolate milk, we recommend doing so even if you don’t need gas.
Denver’s Zero Market not only offers package-free dry goods like herbs, spices, and teas; cleaning supplies and soaps; and home essentials like eco coconut dish brushes and natural laundry stain sticks, this eco-conscious shop offers lessons on how to incorporate DIY waste-free practices into their customer’s lives. Their zero waste bag kit, which includes a recycled cotton tote, stainless steel lunchbox, reusable utensils including a straw and cleaner, 3 produce bags, and a bamboo cup is the easiest way to start.
Related Reading: Regional Fast Food Chains We Wish Would Go National & Regional Sandwich Shops That Should Expand
Header image courtesy of Peach Mart/Facebook.