D'oh! Bladensburg 7-Eleven Is Recast as a Kwik-E-Mart

Monday, July 2, 2007

The workday is over for Abel Cordova but it's just beginning for his wife, Carmen. This is where they snatch a few moments together, at the coffee bar of the 7-Eleven on Kenilworth Avenue in Bladensburg.

He lifts a carafe under the sign that says "Horchata Coffee" and fills a 16-ounce plastic foam cup to the brim, while his wife stirs hazelnut-flavored cream into hers. On the way in, they didn't notice the plywood encasing the facade. Nor did they realize that by Monday morning, the convenience store would be transformed into a replica of the one in the hit Fox cartoon series.

"The Simpsons?" Abel asks, while Carmen shrugs her shoulders. The cartoon, a 7-Eleven executive explains. His eyes light up with recognition. "Ah, the cartoon," he repeats.

The franchise, one of two owned by former 7-Eleven manager Berhane Kebebe, was chosen by corporate executives as one of 12 to be turned into temporary Kwik-E-Marts and stocked with Simpsons products.

Motor oil, paper towels, dog food and map books will make way for Krusty O's cereal boxes, Sprinklicious doughnuts and Radioactive Man comic books.

Signs over the drink fountains will read "Buzz Cola" and a frozen drink flavor has been created for the month: WooHoo! Blue Vanilla Squishee Slurpee.

The transformation will last for a month, leading up to the July 27 opening of "The Simpsons Movie" from Fox. The Kwik-E-Mart, created by Simpsons cartoonist Matt Groening, was inspired by 7-Eleven, which has surpassed McDonald's in number of retail outlets worldwide.

"When you're the industry leader, others may want to stereotype or poke fun at you," said Doug Foster, 7-Eleven's chief marketing officer. "We get the joke and want to have a little fun with our customers and fans of 'The Simpsons.' "

The Bladensburg 7-Eleven in Prince George's County was selected because it is in the top 10 in sales among the chain's 1,003 stores in the mid-Atlantic.

The thinking is that Fox's top-rated show among 18- to 24-year-olds overlaps with the demographics of 7-Eleven's, whose primary shoppers are 18- to 28-year-olds, according to John Donovan, local sales and merchandising director.

It is unclear how much overlap there is between the show and the growing Hispanic market that the Bladensburg store serves.

Nearly half of the Bladensburg 7-Eleven's pastry inventory consists of packaged treats with such labels as semita depiƱa, pan de maiz, arrechas and salpor de arroz.

On Friday, the doughnut cases stood empty and ready for the morning delivery. On top was an illustration of a Simpsons treat the store would feature for the promotion: the Sprinklicious doughnut, a pink-frosted concoction with sprinkles favored by Homer.

Carmen Cordova, running late for her job at a doughnut factory, looked at the picture, then shook her head.

"Oh no," she said, scrunching up her nose, "I don't like doughnuts."

-- Anita Huslin

© 2007 The Washington Post Company