Although long a holdout against free-standing convenience stores, La Cañada is poised this year to see two 7-Eleven stores open.
The former La Cañada Liquor store at 1585 Foothill Blvd. is being rebranded as a 7-Eleven, and a Union 76 gas station undergoing renovations on Foothill at Angeles Crest Highway also will include a 7-Eleven.
City Councilwoman Laura Olhasso said that although the city decided years ago that it didn’t want convenience stores, the shops are permitted when attached to gas stations.
City staff initially rebuffed the 7-Eleven at La Cañada Liquor when it asked for a permit to operate as a convenience store, but the owners then chose to do business essentially as a liquor store.
The storefront, Ohasso said, “already had a liquor license, there is no way to deny that application, so it just got approved at the staff level. There was nothing to stop it.”
The 7-Eleven will have to generate at least 60% of its sales from alcohol in order to conform to local zoning laws.
City planner Fred Buss said the 7-Eleven replacing La Cañada Liquor would not be much of a change.
“All that’s happening there is the liquor store has changed owners,” Buss said. “They’ll have Slurpees and some other convenience items in there, but it’s a liquor store, not a typical 7-Eleven.”
Buss said signage would be replaced and there would be other cosmetic changes. The reopening date has not been set.
The new owner of the store, Kulbir George Sumra, did not respond to requests for comment.
The other new 7-Eleven will be part of the Union 76 station that is reopening after two years of downtime.
Brian Whalen, general manager at Platinum Energy, which owns the station, said the firm researched compatible uses and decided on 7-Eleven.
“Seven-Eleven was the best match for that site, with their ability to do daily deliveries [and] bring in fresh food,” he said.
Whalen estimated that the gas station and store will open by mid-March.
John Yeghiaian, owner of Berge’s sandwich shop, said he heard complaints about the pending 7-Eleven stores from some of his customers, but he has no objections.
“A couple people were concerned it would draw the wrong element, and I thought that might be a little over the top,” he said. “The thing I did agree with: 7-Eleven’s not bad, but it’s not the high-end stuff I think we should be trying to attract.
“I hate to sound catty, but I think if La Cañada is being a high-end community, we should really start trying to encourage high-end retail,” he said.
“I mean, we got T.J.Maxx, we have Big Lots. We need to start getting better things in that are more in tune with our community.”