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REDMOND, Ore. -- Since receiving an honorable discharge from the U.S. Air Force in 1977, Dennis Wallis has spent most of his civilian career as an owner/operator of multiple convenience stores in the North Pacific region. Last month, Wallis, a former sergeant with the Aerospace Patrol Division at McChord Air Force Base in Tacoma, Wash., and his wife, Sandi, reported for duty at their new business -- the Redmond 7-Eleven store here.
Wallis is the first veteran to take advantage of the c-store operator's military veterans franchise program, launched last summer. The program offers discounted franchise fees to retired or separated veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who have been honorably discharged from the service. Qualified veterans who become first-time 7-Eleven franchisees receive a 10-percent discount on the initial franchise fee for the first 7-Eleven store they franchise, which can range from $1,000 to $35,000.
As an experienced veteran of convenience retailing, Wallis said he was surprised how much he could still learn about the business, in which he has spent most of his professional career. "I thought I knew a lot until I stepped into this," he said. "The inventory and daily ordering tools available to us as business owners are phenomenal. I didn't have any of this technological support at previous stores I operated and had to rely on vendors telling me what was selling. Now I can see for myself by just clicking a few keys on the computer and immediately know which products to concentrate our efforts on."
The Wallises had been scouting business opportunities for almost a year, traveling the western United States from Washington to Las Vegas. That was where Sandi noticed a sign in a 7-Eleven store window advertising that it was available for franchising. After learning more about 7-Eleven franchising prospects and undergoing qualifying tests, they returned to their home state of Oregon to find the ideal store for them.
7-Eleven Franchise Sales Director Tim Bain, who covers the North Pacific region for the company, met with the Wallises and provided them with a list of available stores. The couple, who have lived in Klamath Falls and Grant's Pass, fell in love with the Redmond community and knew they wanted it to be home.
"It's such a beautiful part of Oregon and smack dab in the middle of the state," Wallis said. "We love it here and are already feeling at home. Of course, we wear our 7-Eleven shirts everywhere so people are starting to recognize us around town."
The store, located blocks from Redmond High School, fills with students during the lunch rush, and Wallis said he has given one of his student employees Slurpee drink coupons to distribute to students.
"We're trying to promote our business and are looking forward to a big grand opening celebration Jan. 23," Wallis said. "This is the only 7-Eleven store in town, and we want everyone to know we're here. We're really looking forward to being active members of the Redmond community."
The grand opening will feature food sampling, games and prizes, including a Mongoose mountain bicycle.
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