| Today's post highlights Shelby County, TN, retail.|
I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving holiday yesterday! As you unwind this weekend, MSRB contributor Mike B. has kindly supplied us with some good reading for you to catch up on. Specifically, this is the follow-up to his January 2019 post, Memphis Area 7-Eleven Stores. In case you need a refresher, I encourage you to review his earlier post at that link. I've reprinted the final paragraph of his Part 1 post below, and then we'll dive into Part 2 after the jump...
Finally, in 1990, after a long day of visiting extended Memphis family and hanging out in Overton Park, my dad agreed to indulge my curiosity and stop at one of the 7-Elevens for the first of what would be hundreds of Slurpee’s in my lifetime. The final stop that evening was 7-Eleven #29103, located at 795 Highway 72 West in Collierville. Coincidentally, this was the newest and shiniest of the Memphis area stores, with a new store design that another 7-Eleven fan has called “twin towers” due to the symmetrical brick walls on either side of the store entrance. As we pulled into the parking lot the store looked all lit up and great. However, there was something wrong: On all the gas pumps, where the Citgo symbol should have been, there were new stickers, saying “Mapco Express”...
(To be continued – hopefully soon)
(Continued from Previous).. The store employees confirmed that the store was no longer 7-Eleven, and they had been indeed bought by Mapco. I was still able to get a Cherry Slurpee in a red, white, and blue genuine Slurpee cup with the straw that had the spoon at the end.
During the subsequent year, 1991, my family went to Memphis several times for various reasons. On each trip, the final stop was at the former 7-Eleven located in Bartlett at Highway 70 at Stage Road for another Slurpee, but each time in a Mapco cup. I developed a fondness for Banana flavor, long before Mountain Dew flavor was introduced.
On each trip to Memphis, I would watch as the 7-Eleven stores gradually changed over to Mapco. At first, it was just the Citgo gasoline signs covered up and employee uniforms changed, but with all signage and décor intact. One evening, coming back from Raleigh, I spotted the former 7-eleven at the corner of Covington Pike and Yale Road with the familiar green and orange sign blazing. As we reached the corner, I noticed that all lights in the store were on, but there was absolutely nothing in the store. The only thing that was inside were bare walls and the beverage cooler. There were no cars in the parking lot, only a rollaway dumpster by the front door, with whatever was formerly the interior of the store getting soaked in the pouring rain.
Who was the invader who took over Memphis 7-elevens? It turns out it was Tulsa Oklahoma based MAPCO which stood for Mid-American Pipeline Company. They were an energy company that owned at least part of the Alaskan Pipeline. In 1981 Mapco had formed a gasoline holding company that consolidated the regional gasoline brands of Delta, Red-Ace, and Western. They also operated gasoline refineries in Memphis and Alaska. Throughout the 80’s Mapco had been building large gas stations with full size convenience stores in four designs in the Mid-South markets of Memphis, Nashville, Little Rock, and Jackson, Mississippi. These new stores, called Delta Express were very high-volume stations for the time.
With the purchase of the 7-Eleven stores in Memphis, Mapco had become a major player in the Memphis market. The 1987 Memphis Yellow Pages lists 29 Delta gas stations plus an additional 1 in Collierville. And undoubtedly there were others in nearby communities. They added 54 7-eleven stores in the Memphis Metro area. Mapco immediately sold 14 locations that were either low volume or locations that did not sell gasoline. After operations were integrated, Mapco had 78 locations in the Memphis area – 54 which sold Shell Gasoline and 24 which sold gas under their name. From the National Petroleum News article of the time, it seems that the 7-Elevens in Memphis were originally sold to the operator of Sprint 24 Shell gas stations. I’m not certain if this company made an agreement with Mapco to take over the stores – but it would make sense considering that most of the stores were converted to Shell brand gasoline.
Mapco spent $5.6 million to convert the stores from 7-Eleven and Delta Express to their new Mapco Express name and image. In the previous year, 1990, they had made a similar change to all Delta Express stations and former Stop N’Go stores in my hometown of Nashville TN. In my opinion, while they had gone upscale in Nashville in converting the Stop N’Go stores, they REALLY went upscale in Memphis.
The $5.6 million was spent as follows: $1.3 million to change to the Shell brand, and $4.3 million upgrading both the store and the gasoline facilities. Again, in my opinion, and in retrospect, Mapco gave Memphis stores that were more urbane and contemporary than 7-Eleven had been. The stores were completely gutted and remodeled in a new, fresh image. The interiors were replaced with red and hunter green tiles with light wood accents. All counters and fountain areas had been replaced with new ones. Outside, most of the stores had a new splashy backlit awning with “Mapco Express” graphics. The stores in Bartlett and Collierville still kept their understated and tasteful brown exteriors and small “low profile” signage.
Mapco would stay a major gasoline operator in Memphis throughout the 1990’s. As a college student, I worked from Spring of 1995 to June of 1996 at a Mapco store in Nashville, choosing that company because they operated the cleanest, most modern, and safest appearing stores in the area. I thoroughly enjoyed the job and the friends I made with regular customers who lived near that store. After a year, though, I had my fill of the gas station business and left to go to an office job and better schedule.
In March 1998, the parent company of Mapco merged with the Williams Company in a $3.1 billion transaction. Although it was announced that the Mapco stores would change names to Williams Express, I only saw a halfhearted effort. The only changes I can recall was some signage on the gas pumps and some Williams branded coffee mugs.
In December 2000, Williams announced the sale of its Mapco stores to Durham, NC based Convenience USA. Williams would retain 46 travel centers and 28 Mapco locations in Alaska. This transaction must have fallen through, because in 2001 the Delek Group of Israel acquired the stores from Williams. In 2002 Williams sold their travel centers to Pilot Corporation – based in Knoxville TN. In August of 2016, Delek sold the Mapco Stores to Copec – a Chilean company. Ironically, after selling the Mapco stores, Delek took over a company in West Texas that was the largest licensee of 7-Eleven stores. I understand that those stores have been rebranded and freshened as “DK Express”.
Mapco today still operates approximately 350 stores in 7 southern states. The majority of these stores are in an arc that stretches from Memphis to Nashville to Chattanooga and northern Georgia. Almost, but not quite, to the northernmost Atlanta suburbs. Through four owners Mapco appears to be committed to serving the entire Memphis Community – operating stores not just in the ‘best’ neighborhoods, but throughout the city and suburbs.
To accompany this post, as with last time, Mike B. has pulled some photos from his personal collection, complete with comments about the subject of each image. These are shared verbatim below:
Bartlett TN Store (Former 7-Eleven # 25677) – Highway 70 at Stage Road (Picture of this store with 7-Eleven signage was in previous blog entry)
Winchester Rd Store (Formerly 7-Eleven #23331) – 6977 Winchester Rd at Riverdale Road
Bolivar TN Store – Delta Express – look in the background for sign for another blog favorite. (Old-school Fred's sign – awesome!! –Ed.) Located on Market Street at Tennessee Street – Bolivar TN
Collierville TN store – (Formerly 7-Eleven # 29103) – 795 Highway 72 W. Collierville – Possibly the last 7-Eleven built in the state of Tennessee. Located at corner of Highway 72 (Poplar Ave) and Byhalia Road.
Central Ave Store – (Formerly 7-Eleven # 22532) – Located at 2142 Central Ave at Young St. This store is showing Mapco’s newest corporate look. Fieldstone exterior and lime green.
Williams Express Travel Center – 1100 Martin Luther King Blvd, West Memphis AR. In transition from Williams Express to Pilot.
Scan is from a Mapco Free Map of Memphis – showing some pictures of the décor that replaced the 7-Eleven interiors. Unsure of location but believed to be in Memphis.
Second scan is from Mapco Travel Center Brochure – This interior was used almost exclusively in Memphis stores and Travel Centers.
This sequel to Mike B.'s earlier post on the lost history of 7-Eleven's operations in the Memphis area was certainly worth the wait! I've thoroughly enjoyed learning about this facet of local retail, one which I readily admit I don't have much expertise in. I think it's great that Mike has done all of this research for us, and to that end, I also encourage any of you reading this who might have some similar Mid-South retail stories to share to contact us at midsouthretailblog [at] gmail [dot] com. I will gladly publish any contributions you are willing to send along!
Since this post focused on the Mapco conversions of the former Memphis-area 7-Eleven locations, I thought I'd quickly squeeze in a photo or two of my own. While I definitely recognize the Mapco Express logo featured in Mike's images, I don't personally recall ever seeing a Mapco location in DeSoto County until circa 2014, after which two new locations were built here – one in Southaven (at the edge of the Church Road border with Horn Lake), and another in Olive Branch (which opened a couple of years later, in early 2016).
The Olive Branch Mapco in particular is quite interesting because it features a unique curved canopy above the gas pumps. I thought I had a more recent image of it, but despite some intense scouring I simply cannot seem to find it, so I'll instead repost my 2016 image, which has already been shared on the blog before. Mike told me last month that he drove past this same Mapco station on a recent trip that brought him to the area, and he was impressed seeing the design in person!
A quick Google search reveals that there is actually one additional Mapco location in DeSoto County besides those other two, this one within Horn Lake city limits proper (at the intersection of Goodman and Hurt) and also open as far back as 2008, the earliest street view imagery available. It's likely that I'd passed this one once or twice over the years as well, but if so, it was before I paid attention to such things. In any case, it's definitely an exciting find, as it certainly appears to be a former-7-Eleven-turned-Mapco itself! Take a look at the unmistakable exterior in the two images below, from two different Mapco branding eras...
|Courtesy Yellow Pages|
|Courtesy Google Maps|
While Mike B. will hopefully be able to confirm this as a former 7-Eleven for sure, to me the building definitely appears to match that of several of the other 7-Eleven/Mapco conversions shown in the images he contributed earlier in this post. And best of all, thanks to another image I found, we can also get a glimpse of this store's interior from back in 2010. Compare it to both the narrative description and the scanned images of Mapco interiors that Mike provided above, and I think you'll agree that it's a match!
EDIT: Yep, according to Mike, this was indeed 7-Eleven Store #22211, 2515 Goodman Road West!
Pretty cool stuff, huh? Well, on that note, I think it's time to wrap up this post. Before you go, here's the rundown of sources Mike used in writing his contribution:
- Guide to Gasoline Logos – Wayne Henderson and Scott Benjamin – 1997 – PCM Publishing
- Riding the Mapco Express – Convenience Store News – January 11, 1999 – John Lofstock
- Mapco Express sells 198 Sites – Tennessean – December 29, 2000 – Michael Davis
- Mapco stores changing owners – The Commercial Appeal – December 29, 2000 – Christopher Barton
- Travel Centers Fetch Williams $190 million – Tennessean – October 31, 2002 – Bush Bernard
- How Mapco’s Image Upgrade Challenges the Majors – National Petroleum News – January 1989 – Peggy Smedley
- Majors Reshape Memphis in their own Image – National Petroleum News – July 1991 – Angel Abcede
As always, thanks goes out to Mike B. for sharing all of this great content with the blog, and to you readers for visiting the site; I hope you enjoyed the post. We'll be back next month with at least one, but hopefully two, additions to some long-running series, so please stay tuned for that! Until next time, then – have fun exploring the retail world wherever you are :)