The address given in last week's District Weekly for the 7-Eleven store operated by Chung Do Hahm was incorrect. The store is located at 1700 17th St. NW. Hahm said the store does employ others besides family members.
A coalition of church, civic and parent groups in Woodridge, a Northeast Washington community near the Prince George's County line, is trying to stop construction of a 7-Eleven store in one of the area's major commercial strips.
Residents charge that the store, to be built later this year at 1921 Rhode Island Ave. NE, will change the character of the quiet community of well-kept homes, manicured lawns and clean streets and cause increased littering, crime and traffic close to area schools and a church.
The community groups say they fear that the planned store will be too much like a 7-Eleven store in the 700 block of Eighth Street NE that closed this year after several robberies and muggings, much shoplifting and a homicide.
The Eighth Street NE 7-Eleven was opened as part of the chain's rapid expansion in neighborhoods throughout the city in the past two years.
Many of the residents of neighborhoods where the new 7-Elevens have opened, such as Northwest's Shepherd Park and Marshall Heights in Central Northeast, and where 7-Elevens are scheduled to open, such as Northwest's Manor Park, voice the same concerns as the Woodridge residents. However, Lawrence Schumake, director of the D.C. Office of Business and Economic Development, said some of the issues are less tangible.
Some resistance stems from community frustrations about the lack of major grocery stores; as neighoborhood grocery stores close, more 7-Eleven stores open. Other community residents are upset that in a city that is about 70 percent black, only five of 27 7-Eleven stores here are operated by black franchisers. The majority of the franchisers, 17, are Asian-born and are viewed as outsiders who employ only family members rather than community residents, Schumake said.
"It's one of those situations, historically, with new immigrants coming in and acting as entrepreneurs," Schumake said.
In many ways the stores, famous for soft drinks called Slurpees and the Big Gulp, are replacing traditional mom and pop operations and are becoming the neighborhood corner store.
Ten 7-Eleven stores have opened in the District within the past 18 months. Ron Fountain, the regional manager of the Southland Corp., parent company of 7-Eleven, said four more stores are scheduled to open here within the next year. The rapid growth is part of the corporation's expansion in major cities where urban growth and revitalization are anticipated, Southland spokeswoman Robin Young said.
Southland, based in Dallas, Tex., claims to be the world's largest operator and franchiser of convenience stores. It has more than 7,000 stores nationwide, 540 of them scattered throughout Maryland, Northern Virginia, West Virginia and the District.
Fountain says the company is interested in working with minorities to help them gain franchises, which require $28,000 to $46,000.
Willie Holt, a former clock maker, his wife Yvonne and sister Peggy pooled their money earlier this year to pay more than $20,000 for a 7-Eleven franchise. Holt, his wife, two sisters and a cousin work in the store, which opened six months ago at the busy Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road intersection in Northeast. The store also employs three neighborhood residents.
Another franchiser, Chung Do Hahm, opened his 7-Eleven store at 1700 17th St. NE three months ago after spending the last decade as a clerk in a suburban store. Hahm said he used the money he accumulated in a profit-sharing account to buy the franchise. He, his wife and three of their four children work in the store. Hahm, who came to the United States from South Korea 11 years ago, has no other employes, which means he is sometimes in the store around the clock.
Both Holt and Hahm say they get along well in their respective neighborhoods and say their businesses are doing well.
But shop owners near the proposed Woodridge store say they fear they would lose customers to a polished, new 7-Eleven store, and some residents believe the new store would force neighborhood shops out of business.
Although the Woodridge community is trying to attract new businesses to its struggling commercial district and to fill the void left by the closing of full-range supermarkets, the coalition doesn't view its stand against the planned 7-Eleven as a contradiction.
There already are four small convenience stores within five blocks of the proposed site, and members of the coalition point out that these stores, operated by area businessmen, sell the same products -- from cigarette papers to disposable diapers, milk and bread -- that the 7-Eleven would.
" 7-Eleven's got nothing additional to offer us except higher prices," declared Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Altha Elliot.
Southland officials acknowledged that their stores have had problems in the District and elsewhere. But company officials note, and police confirm, that many 7-Eleven stores, such as the store in Brookland, another Northeast community, have had relatively few problems with litter, crime and traffic congestion.
Young said crime in and around the stores has declined since the company installed new surveillance equipment, time-lock safes and other crime prevention devices in all of its stores.
"The facts are that we reduced crime 26 percent," said Young, referring to all the company's stores in the city.
A 7-Eleven store would not increase traffic on the already well-traveled Rhode Island Avenue strip, Young said, because most of its customers would walk to the store.
Still, Alvin Streeter Jr., chairman of the coalition based at St. Francis DeSales Church at 2021 Rhode Island Ave. NE, said, "It's just not the kind of development the Woodridge community needs."
Coalition members said they are concerned that the stores, open around the clock, will be meeting spots for groups of youngsters eager to play video game machines. Some also said they fear that the store would attract people from outside the community who might loiter there day and night and bring more crime.
The site for the Woodridge store, currently home to Small's Used Car lot, is 75 yards from the playground of St. Francis DeSales parochial school and within walking distance of Langdon Elementary School at 20th and Franklin streets NE.
"It's a corner where children pass in every direction," said Father Patrick McCaffrey, who initiated the campaign to block construction of the 7-Eleven last spring while still assigned to the St. Francis DeSales parish. McCaffrey, now with St. Bartholomew Church in Bethesda, Md., said the store would be too much of a "nuisance" and would lure children before, after and during school time.
Southland officials, who are scheduled to meet with representatives from the Woodridge coalition later this week, say their plans to open the store are firm.
"We believe the majority is not in opposition to 7-Eleven ," said Young. "A store there would provide a service."
But members of the coalition say they will not back down, and noted that earlier this year Woodridge residents blocked the opening of a liquor store along the same portion of Rhode Island Avenue.