34 States of “Oh Thank Heaven,” 14 States of Hell.

You know how there are all these certainties in life? Death, taxes, Kardashians… crap like that? Well, sometimes, there are things that you think are the same all over the country, if not the world. One of those things was, I thought, the fact that if you lived in or near a major metropolitan area, there was a 7-Eleven store just a short drive away.

Nope.

There are some who might believe that one retail establishment with B-grade hot food, frozen drinks and overpriced candies and chips is just as good as the next. Not so. The name 7-Eleven is synonymous with the term “convenience store.” There is a reason the name 7-Eleven is known the world over, and when you say the name, everyone knows exactly what kind of place you’re talking about. No other place can sell you a Slurpee frozen beverage (in an ever-expanding variety of flavors), or 32 ounces of your favorite soda pop in a cup that says “Big Gulp.”

I grew up in the Washington DC area; there were 7-Elevens everywhere. When I went away to college in California, 7-Elevens everywhere. Visiting family in Virginia, Missouri, Pennsylvania–a 7-Eleven could easily be found. When I relocated to Minnesota back in 2003? Nothing.

7-Eleven does not exist here in The Gopher State. That’s messed up. But, ya wanna know the really messed up part? They used to be here. I heard from native Minnesotans stuff like, “A’yep, there useta be 7-Elevens here. Not sure what happened to ’em all. They just kinda disappeared.” I did a little further research, and found a news article that said all the Minnesota 7-Elevens shut down after they filed Chapter 11. Say whaa-? How the hell could a popular store chain like 7-Eleven go bankrupt? What did these wacky Minnesotans do to cause that? Did they boycott the stores, because they refused to carry lutefisk? Were the Big Bite hot dogs on the roller grill too spicy? Did Jesse Ventura have anything to do with it?

Yes, I drive around the Twin Cities area, and I can see a few places here and there where 7-Elevens once stood. The “template” of the stores are still intact for the most part, but the buildings had been turned into laundromats, dance studios, chiropractic clinics, or–insult of all insults–knockoff convenience stores called “Super USA.” I walked into one of these places and almost wept openly.

mn-super-usa
No Slurpees in here, my friend. Just sadness.

I’m not ignorant to the way things are; I know that there are certain stores and restaurants that aren’t countrywide. We don’t have In-N-Out Burger or Jack In The Box, or Safeway supermarkets, for example. But I thought that a well-known place like 7-Eleven was like a McDonald’s or Walmart or something like that. I was not prepared to come to Minnesota and find none. We have Holiday and Superamerica, and Kwik Trip  and Circle K stores are popping up all over, and they’re all OK, but no substitute for “Oh Thank Heaven.” And the fact that Minnesota is one of 14 states in the continental US without any 7-Elevens is cold comfort, indeed.

HeavenHell map
The states in white? Those are the 14 States of Hell.

In the last decade or so, there have been quite a few Dunkin’ Donuts opening here in MN. That was another place that was here, then left, and now they’re back. Also, Wisconsin 7-Elevens only existed in or around the Milwaukee area, but have since expanded westward to include five stores in and around Madison. So, maybe when they finally do open a 7-Eleven in Minnesota again (or at the very least, along the MN/WI border), then maybe my subconscious can stop torturing me with dreams of stores being just a short drive away. Yeah, I dream about 7-Elevens in Minnesota. Sad, ain’t it.

Or maybe I’ll get sick of waiting, and move to Florida, where they have 811 of them.

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