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Gladly lining up for a taste of Springfield

Queues are constant and business is booming at 7-Elevens converted to Kwik-E-Marts to promote 'The Simpsons Movie.'

July 25, 2007|Adam Tschorn | Times Staff Writer

Ever since 20th Century Fox and 7-Eleven teamed up to convert a dozen of its North America stores (including two in the L.A. area) into fictional Kwik-E-Marts as a monthlong promotional tie-in to "The Simpsons Movie," fans have been lining up for real-world versions of the Buzz Cola, KrustyO's and Squishees that previously existed only in the animated series.

"I never thought we were going to do this kind of business," said Swarn Sahni, who owns the 7-Eleven franchise at 1611 W. Olive Ave. in Burbank that will operate as a Kwik-E-Mart through the end of the month (the other local store is at 11143 Venice Blvd. in West Los Angeles). " 'The Simpsons' fans are spending money like crazy."

Sahni said the line outside the store has been near constant and his business has shot up about 300% since putting up the Kwik-E-Mart signage June 30.

Most of that comes from the movie-related merchandise (which is stocked in non-Kwik-E-Mart 7-Elevens as well) -- and more than a few hot dogs. "I usually sell 800 hot dogs a week," Sahni said. "Now I'm selling about 3,000 a week."

As for that most quintessential of Simpson edibles, the doughnut, the Burbank store had sold 57,510 of the Sprinklicious variety in July (they're the ones, as every "Simpsons" fan knows, with the pink icing and multicolored sprinkles), according to a 7-Eleven spokesman.

The doughnuts are only part of the attraction.

The Olive location has become a draw for many of the artists and actors who have worked on "The Simpsons" series or movie, a fact illustrated by the more than 30 character sketches taped in one corner -- the animator's equivalent of posting your head shot at the local dry cleaners.

Maggie Roswell, the Colorado resident who lends her voice to a handful of characters, including Maude Flanders, Sharri Bobbins, Luann van Houten and Helen Lovejoy (whom she plays in the feature film), came to town for Tuesday night's premiereand visited the store. She ended up posing for pictures in the parking lot with fans.

"I signed a little thing that said: 'Maude Flanders had to come to L.A. to actually see the real Kwik-E-Mart,' " she said.

In addition to life-size cutouts of a hot dog-wielding Homer Simpson, Milhouse and Bart cavorting on the roof and Chief Wiggum standing by with a doughnut in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other, there are many smaller, more subtle details.

Although the ATM sign that read "First Bank of Springfield" had been already been stolen, campaign posters for Mayor Quimby remained, as did a "Greetings From Springfield" poster -- complete with a three-eyed fish (a result of the local nuclear power plant). And for anyone who wanders around the side of the store, there is one more bonus:

"Many of the 'Simpsons' artists live in this area," said Sterling Hayman who works for TracyLocke, the Dallas agency that helped bring the Kwik-E-Marts to life. "So during the first week we called Fox and said, 'Hey, we thought of an extra added touch you guys might want to consider.' We wanted to make it appear that Bart has graffitied the side of the building."

Hayman walked around the corner of the building and pointed to the spray-painted words "Skinner stinks" and a caricature of Bart's long-suffering school principal and the tag "El Barto."

"That was done on Day 3," Hayman said. "I heard that someone who had been here several times saw it and was like, 'Wow, the store got tagged last night!' How cool is that?"

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adam.tschorn@latimes.com

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