A Convenience Store with a Family Touch

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:15

Two sisters bring community to their 7-Eleven franchise on the Upper West Side

Two native New York sisters have teamed up to open their own 7-Eleven on the Upper West Side, bringing a new energy to a familiar store.

Palavi and Monica Malik recently moved to the Upper West Side to be closer to their store, which is located at 600 Columbus Avenue, on the corner of 89th Street. Born and raised in Queens, they are familiar with the food industry after growing up eating and working at their parents Indian restaurant Tamba Grill & Bar.

Upon meeting both sisters at their store recently, it was obvious they have brought a fresh outlook to the 7-Eleven brand. Greeting all of their employees by name, a balance of friendship and structure was evident in the way they do business.

"It has been so exciting, we want efficiency," Monica said. "There was already a 7-Eleven store here before we took ownership, so a lot of what we have been focused on is making it an organized and friendly work environment."

During the early morning rush, customers were grabbing their coffee and breakfast to go while some deliveries were being dropped off. Both sisters buzzed around the store helping direct where to place the deliveries, discussing shift changes with employees, and welcoming customers by offering them the complimentary ice water at the store's entrance.

"Guests are our number one priority, we are listening to the neighborhood," Palavi said. "It is important to us that we introduce ourselves to the community and get direct feedback." In the end of October, they will be hosting a Customer Appreciation Day where the will hire a DJ to play music outside; employees (Palavi and Monica included) will be dressed in Halloween costumes greeting customers, and giving away some free Slurpees.

After working together to help their older sister's business, Virtual Immigration Office, grow, the sisters discovered a great working relationship. They decided to start their own business venture, and began searching for the right fit. With a finance background, Palavi began bouncing ideas around with former colleagues and classmates. She heard about a conference for people interested in opening a 7-Eleven franchise, and really got excited about the freedom they allow each store owner.

"From the start we have had such support, we were both drawn to how community-based 7-Eleven was and we knew it was something that would be well received in this area," said Palavi. "We have a great give and take relationship with the corporate offices, and they really listen to our ideas." The 7-Eleven corporate brand has been pushing to become more urban in recent years. With a flood of stores opening all over New York City, they have been steadily increasing their market share here. Both sisters are avid social media users, and they were excited to get involved with the 7-Eleven marketing strategy. The company has recently developed an app, and worked to build a bigger online presence. Together the sisters make a balanced team, offering different skills that seem to work together in what they describe as "a great synergy." Monica works most directly with employees, training them once they have been hired. She also is a major part of their social media presence, using different outlets like Facebook and Twitter to tell customers about special deals and events happening at the store.

Palavi works with the corporate offices, dealing with the payroll, hiring new employees, and keeping their finances in order. Both sisters used the saying "you build the people, the people build the business," emphasizing the importance of treating staff well.

Knowing that there is a large population of Jewish families in their neighborhood, the Malik sisters are in the process of making a kosher line of food for their store, and hope to cater to other community needs.

"We are a food destination," Palavi said. "We have a lot of ideas, and we are already working with corporate to make sure they happen."