Miami real estate broker Nathan Kurland was driving downtown on Biscayne Boulevard with his wife the other day when they spotted a red, orange and green-striped sign with a familiar logo on the ground floor of an office tower.
Was that 7-Eleven store there before? Kurland said they asked each other.
Suddenly, the ubiquitous chains convenience stores are popping up all around downtown Miami like mushrooms after a hard rain.
But theyre not your Pops suburban 7-Elevens.
Like the corner stores of old, which they recall, these are smaller, urban prototypes with no parking and an emphasis on fresh and grab-and-go foods aimed at downtown dwellers and workers on foot. Like all 7-Elevens, theyre open round the clock.
And the stores conspicuous arrival here confirms that downtown Miamis much-trumpeted revival is no figment of boosters imaginations, city officials say. The Biscayne Boulevard 7-Eleven, which opened earlier this month in the New World Tower, is the chains third new walk-up corner store downtown.
There is a fourth in west Brickell and a fifth under construction in a historic South Beach building.
The thousands of mostly young residents lured downtown by the condo boom of the mid-2000s have now made the district, once desolate outside office hours, an attractive place for national chains demographics-crunchers, said Alyce Robertson, executive director of the Downtown Development Authority.
That includes not just 7-Eleven, but also drugstore chains like Walgreens and CVS, which have opened new outlets in the business district, as well as high-end grocer Whole Foods, which has inked a deal to open downtown.
Its incredible to see the amount of activity underway, and it doesnt appear to be waning, Robertson said in an email.
The opening of 7-Elevens bright, sleekly designed stores has been a welcome boon to downtown residents and office workers who formerly had to rely on often-dingy mom-and-pop convenience stores with limited hours and offerings.
We were very excited, said Rachel Sak, marketing director for Zyscovich Architects, a 90-person firm in the New World building, as she shopped the new 7-Elevens wine selection for the office holiday party and gifts to co-workers. We are taking advantage of it for sure. If youre downtown and youre walking, or you want to pick up something on the way home, its pretty convenient.
The other two stores are on Flagler Street at Miami Avenue, and on Northeast Second Avenue on the ground floor of the Loft Downtown II building, which sits at the foot of a Metromover station and across the street from Miami Dade College.
Its doing very well, actually, said franchisee Bobby Abrol, who opened the 7-Eleven at the Loft building this past summer. Its all these young couples and young singles who come downstairs for groceries, and the students of course. Its been a very positive location for me.
The urban-format outlets are not new for 7-Eleven, by far the worlds largest convenience-store chain. Company officials say theyve had them in big cities like Chicago and New York for years. But bringing them to downtown Miami now was a no-brainer as the fast-growing chain, which is adding hundreds of stores in the United States and Canada each year, seeks out new markets in which to expand, they said.