H-F teacher Gina Slusinski uses museums to spark student interest

Convenience is back in Homewood. The store, that is.

Alpesh Patel waits on a 
customer at Southgate 
Mini-Mart, which opened
Dec. 5 in the location of
the former 7-11 store on
Dixie Highway in Homewood. 

(Photo by Eric Crump/
HF Chronicle)

Convenience store customers say they missed the handy place to stop for coffee or a doughnut when the 7-11 store at 18747 Dixie Highway closed its doors in October. 

But Alpesh Patel and his partner, Mehul Patel, saw the closure as an opportunity. They have filled the convenience store void with Southgate Mini-Mart, which opened its doors Saturday, Dec. 5.


Alpesh Patel said they were looking at a location in Evanston, hoping to open a store there, but one day last fall as he was driving to his home in Chicago Heights he noticed a “for lease” sign in the window at 7-11. 

He said he jumped at the opportunity, quickly called the number on the sign and had a lease in hand before 7-11 had moved out.

“I love Homewood. I love the people,” he said.

Patel said the response from customers so far has been very good. For one thing, the store will be very familiar to them, so the regulars will feel at home.

“They are just glad we are here,” he said.

Patel and his partner bought most of the equipment and furnishings that were in the 7-11, so preparations for opening mainly consisted of cleaning and restocking the store. 

A few items weren’t available for sale, however, and he is in the process of restoring them. A slushy machine was installed Friday, Dec. 11, and Patel expects to be offering packaged beer and wine soon, too.

“It’s the same as the 7-11, but I’ll try to make it even better,” he said. 

Stephanie Wright stopped by Thursday to pick up a few things. She said it was good to see the store open again.

“I actually did miss it,” she said. “It looks really nice, and the new owners are very nice.”

Patel’s plans for improvement include developing healthier food options, including fresh juices, smoothies and sprouts for breakfast salads. 

He is also asking customers for suggestions about how to improve the store. 

Another regular customer of the 7-11, Steven Austin, stopped in for coffee a few minutes after Wright left. He said the new store seemed to have a few details to work out, but he was glad to see it reopen.

“I’m going to give them a chance,” he said. “I’ll probably be a regular.”

Patel has several years of experience managing convenience stores, but this is the first store he has owned, and he said he’s excited by the opportunity.

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