- The Washington Times - Monday, July 2, 2007

Ever wanted to try KrustyO’s Cereal? Or wondered what Buzz Cola tastes like? Or just wanted to walk into a Kwik-E-Mart?

The 7-Eleven at 4199 Kenilworth Ave. in Bladensburg has been transformed into the fictional convenience store featured in “The Simpsons” animated TV series, complete with a new yellow facade and products straight from the show in a promotion tied to the forthcoming “The Simpsons Movie.”

“20th Century Fox [Film Corp.] was looking for something that’s never been done before,” said Margaret Chabris, a 7-Eleven spokeswoman. “[A California] 7-Eleven, as legend has it, was the inspiration for [Simpsons founder] Matt Groening for the Kwik-E-Mart.

“We asked, ‘What can we do to make the world turn yellow?’ ”

The chain didn’t just throw a new banner on top of the store: There is little sign of 7-Eleven remaining in the Bladensburg store, which was converted into a Kwik-E-Mart on Saturday night and will stay that way until the end of the month.

In this reverse product placement, Kwik-E-Mart’s shelves are stocked with Buzz Cola (a sugary cola made by beverage company Cott Corp.), KrustyO’s Cereal (similar to Fruit Loops), Squishees (Slurpees, including the WooHoo! blue vanilla flavor), Homer’s Sprinkilicious Donuts (with strawberry frosting and sprinkles), Radioactive Man comic books, and promotional items such as dancing Homer dolls, talking key chains, T-shirts, hats and magnets with show characters.

Because the movie is rated PG-13, Homer’s Duff Beer didn’t make it to store shelves.

But life imitates art all over the new Kwik-E-Mart, which is often depicted in Simpsons episodes. Cutouts of Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu Nahasapeemapetilon Jr., Ph.D. — who ends every interaction with “Thank you, come again!” — and other characters appear throughout the store.

Twelve of 7-Eleven’s 7,200 North American stores have been converted, including stores in the top 7-Eleven markets of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Seattle. The Simpsons conversion will be in place all month, in time for the first Simpsons movie, which is due out July 27. The products will be in all 7-Eleven stores.

But Kwik-E-Marts don’t exactly have the best reputation. Hot dogs cook under hot lamps, a bag of chips costs $5.99, and there is a dead guy in the freezer. (The Bladensburg store even has a photo of frozen Jasper Beardley in the freezer.)

“It’s just a fun way to juxtapose what 7-Eleven is all about,” Ms. Chabris said, stressing that 7-Eleven foods are actually made daily.

The convenience-store chain, the largest in the country, declined to say how much it is spending on the conversion but said it’s the largest monthly advertising campaign by far.

Plans for the Kwik-E-Mart conversion had been in the works since January 2006, with a lot of secrecy as to which stores would be converted, said Joy Pico, 7-Eleven’s area manager. Word spread to Simpsons blogs earlier this year, but no one knew the locations until yesterday.

The Bladensburg location was chosen to host the D.C. area’s Kwik-E-Mart because of its proximity to the District, as well as its large parking lot, Ms. Pico said.

Customers yesterday were a little confused about whether the store has new owners, Ms. Pico said.

“A lot of customers are saying, ‘What happened to 7-Eleven?’ ” she said. Once they’re told it’s still 7-Eleven and just a Simpsons promotion, “people are calling their friends and telling them to come by.”

Store franchise owner Berhane Kebede has scheduled extra employees for the month in anticipation of more people coming by to see a bit of the Simpsons‘ Springfield in Maryland.

Ms. Kebede saw the conversion to Kwik-E-Mart as a good opportunity.

“People who like 'The Simpsons' and have never been in a 7-Eleven might come in and see how great it is,” she said. “It might bring them back.” Or as Apu would say, “Thank you, come again!”

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