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By Mehgan Belanger
NEW YORK -- The National Coalition of 7-Eleven Franchise Owners Association started the new year with a new chairman -- Dennis Lane, a 34-year 7-Eleven franchisee located in Quincy, Mass. -- who was elected to the two-year term on Nov. 30.
Lane, who has spent his entire adult life serving the convenience industry, was a founder and past president of the New England chapter of the 7-Eleven Franchise Owners Association, and was the vice chairman of merchandising for the national association for the past three years. He is also a member of 7-Eleven’s Presidents Leadership Council.
"I've been in the industry for 34 years. I was 23 years old when I bought my 7-Eleven," Lane told CSNews Online. "Everything I've done in my adult life has been 7-Eleven … I love what I'm doing, and I love the industry." Lane bought his store in 1974 after graduating from college and seeing an ad in the Boston Globe.
"I did not want to work for somebody. I wanted to go out on my own. My mother and father gave a lecture that any parent would give a kid -- how many small businesses fail, how hard it is, etc.," he said. "I found the one with the highest volume, the investment was minimal, I was at the right place at the right time, I bought the store and never looked back."
Explaining that the opportunity to be the chairman of the national association gives him "another perspective on the industry than just running the store," Lane said he thought it was time for a change, and that he had a lot to bring to the position.
Over the next two years of his term, Lane plans to nurture relationships between franchisees, their parent company and vendors. "I'm really looking forward to working on building mutually beneficial relationships," he said. "It's all about the relationships."
Most importantly, Lane plans to support other 7-Eleven franchisees. "The most important function is to protect the rights of independent franchisees. When you have a franchise relationship, in any industry, it's important to keep the channels of communication open and to talk honestly," he told CSNews Online. "At the end of the day, I want to have a great relationship with Seven & I, the industry and most importantly with the vendor community."
Lane also gave CSNews Online some insight into the challenges 7-Eleven, as well as the industry faces, and strategies the chain is using to combat pressures.
"The biggest challenge is the shrinking of the cigarette category. With taxes, legislation, increased costs, consumer awareness of the health issues -- whether we like it or not, this industry needs to transition away from cigarettes," he said. "They have been our bread and butter, but cigarettes are very rapidly declining. I'm not saying they are not an important part of the business, but it's changing at 100 miles per hour, and the industry needs a strategy to replace lost cigarette revenues."
He added: "We're looking at and aggressively moving to foodservice. Foodservice, for us, will be salvation for the future."