(June 10) Skipping that corner convenience store, hurried consumers soon may be grabbing that sandwich, banana or drink at an airport, college campus or hospital.

Smaller versions of neighborhood C-stores are appearing in or near subway and train stations, factories, downtowns and office buildings.

Fresh produce is among the convenience items helping the convenience stores move into new venues. The move of c-stores into new areas is like the fast-food chains that opened branches in schools, shopping centers and retail stores, industry observers say.

“It’s about finding where you can serve customers as opposed to finding a street corner and assuming they will come to you,” said Jeff Lenard, director of communications for the National Association of Convenience Stores, Alexandria, Va. “These are the street corners of the 21st century.”

With low profit margins, gasoline no longer fuels profits for the 130,000 U.S. C-stores, 80% of which sell gas. C-stores can make more money selling a cup of coffee than a fill-up, Lenard said.

HUNGRY AT THE AIRPORT

A handful of C-stores are branching to other areas, such as airports.

Atlanta-based airport concessionaire The Paradies Shops May 7 opened the first full-scale U.S. airport C-store in the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

The DFW TravelMart was opened to provide a new direction in airport shopping, said Gregg Paradies, Paradies Shops’ senior vice president and chief operating officer.

The store, which caters not only to travelers but to airline workers needing to shop before heading home or during breaks, offers typical convenience items such as magazines, health and beauty items, beverages and convenience foods such as fresh sandwiches, salads, apples, bananas and oranges.

“A lot of our customers are very health conscious,” Paradies said. “Many times there aren’t many health-conscious items at airports.”

7-Eleven Stores Inc., Dallas, the leading C-store chain with 25,000 locations worldwide, recently opened a store in Vancouver, British Columbia, International Airport. Like Paradies, 7-Eleven was surprised to find a lot of airport workers patronizing the store, said spokeswoman Margaret Chabris.

7-Eleven stores also recently opened in hospitals and universities. Not only patients, but visitors and hospital staff are shopping there, she said.

FRUIT SALES STRONG

At the chain’s Temple University campus store in Philadelphia, teachers, support staff and students buy the store’s bananas, mixed fruit bowls, sliced cantaloupe in a bowl, sliced watermelon, sliced pineapple, strawberries in a bowl and grapes in a bowl.

“Sales for these fruit offerings have been extremely strong,” Chabris said. “We hope to expand the single-sell fruit — like apples and oranges — after we determine the best way to merchandise them.”

Fresh foods remain the focus of the urban stores that 7-Eleven is opening in downtown Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Long Beach, Calif.

“They’re going gangbusters,” Chabris said. “A lot of the good corners are taken. If the merchandising is done right, you can get as much if not more sales in a smaller format store.”