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February 05, 2014

Slurpees By Summer? 7-Eleven's Coming



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The owners may be saying "Oh, thank heaven," but residents of the hamlet nicknamed "I'm Against It" may not be too thrilled by the idea.

Last week East Hampton Town Chief Building Inspector Tom Preiato issued a building permit enabling the conversion of the old Villa Prince restaurant into a 7-Eleven.

"I looked it over in great detail with the town attorney's office," Preiato said of the application filed by the Villa Prince Ristorante Corp. The conversion doesn't meet the standard for a full scale site plan review, he explained, because the use is reduced from a 116-seat restaurant to a retail store that would accommodate a maximum of 30 people. There are more than the required number of parking spaces and there would be no increase in septic flow. The parcel, located at the eastern end of downtown Amagansett between the IGA complex and a Shell gas station, is zoned for commercial business. Retail, said Preiato, "is a permitted use there."

Contrary to popular belief, the town code carries no prohibition of franchise, or national chain, stores, the building inspector informed. "The main thing I look at is the code," he asserted.

Rumors of a 7-Eleven coming to the site date back to 2011. At the time, opponents complained Amagansett was "the last holdout" when it came to hosting national chains. But during a town board work session in February of 2011, then-Town Attorney John Jilnicki echoed Preiato's observation: the town has no power to stop a 7-Eleven or other chains from opening. "You're actually not allowed to bar somebody from opening just because they happen to be a franchise operation," Jilnicki said. It's well established in New York State, the attorney told the town board in 2011.

The prior year, some residents in Montauk expressed opposition when a 7–Eleven opened on Main Street in the hamlet. They complained the presence of a chain convenience store would have a negative impact on local Mom & Pop establishments. Others felt the store would bring an urban vibe to the area, while still others believe the Montauk market should have been the subject of a full-scale site plan review.

Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, 7-Eleven boasts over 52,000 outlets internationally. The convenience store concept originated in 1927, when an employee at the Southland Ice Company began selling milk, bread, and eggs from ice houses. The stores were first called Tote'm, then took the name 7-Eleven after World War II in reference to their hours of operation, which were rare in those days. During the '60s some of the convenience stores began operating on a 24-hour schedule. Notable products crafted by 7-Eleven include the Slurpee and the Big Gulp, oversized beverages that can top 64 ounces. 7-Eleven was the first to offer coffee "to go" on Long Island in the '60s.

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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