Konbini in the U.S.? Why not?

As anyone who has been to Japan knows, Japanese convenience stores, aka konbini, are nothing like convenience stores elsewhere. Insted of being rather sad places with ersatz food and overpriced groceries, they are like small fun palaces for foodies with loads of interesting goodies, many services, and so on. It's a very competitive area of retail.

Seven Eleven recently made a splash by making over 12 of its stores (11 in the U.S., one in Canada) to Kwik-E Marts a la The Simpsons. Here's a list of all the U.S. remade stores; the Canadian one is in Vancouver. Judging from the photos of one of them, the attention to detail is terrific. As a matter of fact, it's about as much as is lavished on a typical konbini in Japan. Seven Eleven Japan actually owns Seven Eleven U.S. (there was an NHK docudrama a while back that showed how this happened...it was quite dramatic in a payback kind of way, since originally Seven Eleven had rejected the Japanese request for franchise rights.) Anyway, they recently announced that they are planning to spend $2.4 billion in a big U.S. expansion. I can't help but wonder if they'd make at least some of those new stores konbini-like in terms of selection, attention to detail, and just the 'fun' factor. I'm sure that Americans would love it.

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have you check out famima!! they're popping up in the Los Angeles area and are an "upscale" 7-11 of sorts. they carry japanese/asian drinks as well as snacks and ready made meals.

I haven't been to the LA area in a while but I'll be sure to check famima out when I do. Though I was thinking more of a U.S. 'konbini' that had that spirit of...I don't know, a fun place to shop kind of thing, rather than a place that sold asian products...hard to describe, and if I knew how I might be in the food retail business :)

I'd love it if konbinis made it into the US properly. I really miss being able to walk into some place at midnight, get tuna mayo onigiri (yes i have the palate of a 3 year old), some ice cold unsweetened green tea, and maybe some of those lightly salted potato chips. It's funny- green tea sold like a soft drink has become a little popular here, but they inevitably ruin it by sweetening it. I couldn't help buying a white tea lychee drink yesterday, because I love lychee- but it was so sickeningly sweet I couldn't finish it. :( Where's my konbini with all those lovely cold oolong cha's, ocha and jasmine tea?? I will be waiting in line at the door for them to open, if they ever open one in my area.

Although I shouldn't complain- Daiso is opening a new store in my local shopping center... I CAN'T WAIT! In general, though, convenience stores here in the states are dreadful, bleak places with about as many tasty, healthy food options as a McDonald's fryer. Yum. Yum. :(

-sea (book of yum girl)

The convenience store/gas station market is heavily competitive in my area (East TN), with two local chains being the big players. The new stores that these places have built, some of them "Travel Centers" based along the interstates, are for the most part bright, cheerful places that are pleasant to visit. I can't say they're meccas for healthful snacking, but I can say that in most of them, I can find a decent drink in a bright and cheerful drink area, and a decent selection of nuts or dried fruit. Much better than many "7-11" type stores I've visited elsewhere.

"small fun palaces for foodies"


For years (up to three years ago) I ate two or three times a week from the various convenience stores near my company in Jinbocho -- they sure weren't catering to foodies then. Bentos, prepackaged salads, spaghetti, oden, chashubao, french fries, etc.

The takkyubin services are cool though.

By the way, living in Silicon Valley I suppose it should be no surprise- but I found one of the Kwik-E-Marts near our local movie theater. The theme was cool, and people were visiting it like a tourist attraction... but, it was still just a typical convenience store at the heart of it. Ah well, it was still fun.


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