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    BONUS CONTENT: Still in the Zone

    Checking in with Riverside County Travel Zone Center in Perris, Calif.

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News

    PERRIS, Calif. — Seven years after opening the Riverside County Travel Zone Center, an 11,000-square-foot retail outlet on an 11.5-acre tract along the Interstate 215 corridor in the southern part of the state, owner Ali Mazarei is still California dreaming.  

    The Travel Zone opened Feb. 4, 2008. Four months later, Mazarei appeared on the cover of Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner and shared his philosophy that the store does not have customers, it has guests. In fact, any employee who mistakenly broke this rule had to put $1 in a jar.

    Today, Mazarei still considers his customers guests and treats them accordingly. Many changes and additions to the business over the past few years have been made with the guests in mind.

    For instance, Travel Zone is maximizing its flex space to bring in the products and services its guests are looking for and need, he explained. The location now offers smog check services, a full-size 18-wheeler truck service, and oil change service.

    In addition to new services, Mazarei has expanded the ARCO/ampm franchise. Notably, he just completed construction of a CNG/LNG station, and a Smoke Cigar Shop featuring hand-rolled imported cigars from around the world held a soft opening in mid-March. 

    Guests at Travel Zone also now find two patio seating areas, an air-conditioned lounge, two quick-service restaurant (QSR) drive-thru windows, a QSR seating area, a full-service sit-down restaurant, Internet services, car wash, weigh station facility, and a well-lit parking lot with 24-hour surveillance.

    And how is business today? "It couldn't be better," Mazarei reported, though he acknowledged the franchise business is not easy, as there are no laws protecting the franchisees.

    Now that he is what may be considered "an old pro" in the single-store industry, he does have some advice for other retailers getting into the business.

    "Get to know other operators and network with them," Mazarei said. "Get involved in the community. They are the ones that keep coming to your store, buying your products and services.

    Editor’s note: This Bonus Content story is an add-on to the "Where Are They Now?" feature in the April issue of Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner. A digital edition can be accessed by clicking here.

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News
    • About Melissa Kress Melissa Kress joined EnsembleIQ's Convenience Store News in November 2010. Her primary beats include alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Kress has been a professional journalist since 1995. A graduate of West Virginia University, she began her career in community journalism before moving to business-to-business publishing in 2000, covering commercial real estate.

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