About five years ago, Tony and Greg Cocheo began an odyssey to open up a 7-Eleven on the corner of Route 25 and Factory Avenue in Mattituck. The store would be the second one the Cocheos would own and the fourth 7-Eleven on the North Fork, replacing an aging Citgo gas station.
But a group of people in town hated the idea and began picketing the site proposed for the 7-Eleven about three years ago, the same time the businessmen were trying to get approvals from Southold Town and other agencies to start construction.
Work crews finally broke ground in July of 2011, but final approval was delayed by glitches in the site plan approval process and concerns about traffic flow and safety around the corner lot and the offset intersection.
On Dec. 19, 2011, the doors of the Mattituck 7-Eleven opened to a steady stream of customers — and business has not let up at a store that Tony Cocheo says is doing extremely well with coffee, hot food like pizza, grilled hot dogs and rolls, and other to-go food items like sandwiches and salads. The Mattituck store is open 24-7 and currently employees 11 (yes, 11) people, full- and part-time.
“The bottom line is that this year has been all positive,” Cocheo said Tuesday morning. “We’ve got fresh food, good coffee and continue to get positive reactions from everyone who comes in here.”
Before they get ready for Santa to visit the store for a toy drive on Saturday, Patch asked the Cocheos, who both live in East Marion, how their first year went after a rocky road to open in Mattituck.
Patch: Can you describe how the year has progressed since last December?
Greg Cocheo: We’ve been very steady. We definitely see a coffee rush every morning, and we have a lunch and evening crowd too. We’ve built up a regular clientele already in a year.
Tony Cocheo: The bottom line is — it’s been all positive. We’re all about customer service, we’re local people, we live in town, we keep the place very clean, and we have what people want — fresh food and good coffee. And I think a 24-7 store was needed here, not only for those late nighters but for people who need medicine and other items in emergencies.
Patch: How does the Mattituck location differ from the Southold store?
Tony Cocheo: We go through much more fresh food, coffee, doughnuts, and other to-go food products here. We have a lot of competition around us here in other areas — grocery items, cigarettes. In Southold there is more of a balance in what we sell, and I think that has to do with the hours of the drug store and supermarket. But in Mattituck, what we’ve sold matches the business plan we had formulated before opening. We evaluated the local market to see where the competition was in all categories. And the Southold store has not suffered because this one is open. They’re just two different businesses.
Patch: Tell me how you came into this business of running 7-Elevens on the North Fork.
Tony Cocheo: We’re originally from Nassau County, and I have a background in retail, worked for Bloomingdales and other retail stores for years. But we’ve been vacationing out here forever, about 20 years, and I’d been considering opening a 7-Eleven in Nassau when the opportunity came up in Southold 10 years ago. I saw it as a good opportunity to move to a nice place and have a business. And we opened in Southold in March of 2002.
Greg Cocheo: I came onboard about eight years ago. I had been working for Century 21 Department Stores in Commack, but I got married, had a kid and moved out here to work for dad. We’ve made some very close friends, it’s been great.
Patch: When did the idea to open up another store in Mattituck come about?
Tony Cocheo: 7-Eleven had for the longest time had an interest in this piece of property, and about five years ago I began the process of qualifying to run another store — 7-Eleven isn’t going to give you another one unless you’re already doing great. At the time, the Southold store was ranked in the top four out of 105 store in Suffolk County. So we qualified. But, as you know, the process stopped and started for years at this location.
Patch: Locals were concerned about traffic problems, riff-raff hanging outside late at night, etc…. any problems like this a concern for you in 2012?
Tony Cocheo: Only that the curb cut was done late on the Factory Avenue entrance, but when it was done it made it easier for trucks to get in and out. But trucks don’t use Factory very often. They usually make the easy right off of Route 25.
Greg Cocheo: Every 7-Eleven will have kids hanging out at a certain point, but we have customers at both stores who look out for us and other people — if they see something off, they’ll come to us.
Patch: And the competition? Have any business owners nearby come in angry during the course of the year?
Tony Cocheo: We’ve actually served a lot of the folks from the shopping center and Waldbaum’s, they need their coffee too. The reality is, when you open a business like this, it’s not all new business that you will get.
Greg Cocheo: It’s competition. I think it makes everyone work harder. People have come in to say that they were at the front of the picket line against this store, and now they’re in here every day. It’s because they’re gotten to know us, and they’re glad we’re here.
See Santa at 7-Eleven on Dec. 15 from 11 a.m to 1 p.m., and be sure to bring a toy for the store's holiday toy drive.
What do you think of the Mattituck 7-Eleven, now that it’s been open for a year? Let us know in the comments.
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