By Dan Haley
The 7-Eleven at South Boulevard and Euclid — that would be the official Wednesday Journal convenience store — has been taken over by the corporation. This is not good.
It happened last week with only a couple days of rumors and fear-mongering to get the blood boiling after 30+ years of being used to Karen Miller running the place like an old-fashioned corner store. Years ago, Karen pretty much managed with her twin daughters manning the register. Recently it has been the odd band of odd ducks who work the counter 24 hours a day. The cast of characters, you might say. The morning man who played WFMT and turned down the sound on the obnoxious 7-Eleven TV feed hanging over the coffee pots. The young guy who told me he was joining the military but stayed on to sell Winstons. The young woman with the tattoo. OK, I think they all had tattoos.
These folks weren't always friendly. But they were always interesting and they were always there, whether it was 6 a.m. for coffee, Saturday at midnight for the Sunday paper, or Thanksgiving Day for some delicious $7 butter.
This morning there was an officious fellow with an iPad sort of thing hanging from his belt — his tether to corporate, I suppose. He was telling the new girl, "Shut it down," referring I think to a bank of post-rush coffee pots though possibly to all semblance of remaining humanity in the place.
Got me thinking about places I like to shop and places I don't and about what a difference it makes in where I spend my money. Here are my favorites and duds:
For years I railed against the McDonald's on Madison in Oak Park, once declaring it "The Worst McDonald's in the World." Now it is great. The staff is friendly, attentive and, yes, sincere. I was standing there one night a couple of weeks ago as the wheels gave every indication of coming off. There was an old woman ordering dinner for her church, or some other large assemblage. Big Mac by double cheeseburger, she went through a list by faulty memory. The kid at the counter was patience incarnate. A very upset person wanted to call the Chicago cops as she was being wrongly evicted at that very moment. Where was the pay phone? A counter person loaned her personal cell. Everyone wanted extra ketchup and the Coke machine was out of fizzy water.
Everyone stayed calm. Everyone got a smile. And when I complimented the manager on her remarkable staff of mainly teens, I got a smile.
Not the same can be said of the Wendy's on Madison. A sullen bunch these. No one is happy at the Wendy's. Everyone is happy, maybe too happy, at the Culver's on Roosevelt. That place has about three times as many staffers as you'd expect and they all want to flaunt their cheerfulness at you.
Sears Pharmacy is a simply wonderful place. More than the funny signs and the collection of moose stuff (a consultant said, "Have a theme." It is moose.), Sears Pharmacy is warm and knowledgeable. Love the morning counter woman at Laury's Bakery. The Book Table is the best independent bookstore in my memory. And the staff actually reads books. OMG, Chef Paco at New Rebozo gives the best hugs. Walgreens on Madison? Yes. CVS on Madison? Never a good feeling. Jewel on Madison? Recently rediscovered. Dominick's on Lake? Losing ground to Jewel on Madison. Karen at the Careful Peach is a great personal shopper. She never misses. Yearbook on Madison in Forest Park is the most perfectly imagined retail store I've discovered in years. Dunkin Donuts on Madison proves a store is always better when the owner comes to work.
What say you?