Painting a Personality

Convenience stores are adding murals, inside and out, to make the stores more vibrant and engage local communities.

Painting a Personality

October 2023   minute read

By: Amanda Baltazar

Convenience stores are community stores—and some are drawing on the creativity of their communities to engage with customers through murals.

7-Eleven, the Irving, Texas-based retailer, is partnering with local artists and muralists. The retailer has more than 20 murals at 7-Eleven locations in cities across the country, including New York, Los Angeles, Austin and Tampa, with seven in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

In 2020, the c-store teamed up with Ammersion Group, a creative agency in Dallas, to commission artists to paint both interior and exterior walls, inspired by the neighboring communities.

“We intentionally select artists who are self-made and have a connection to the communities/neighborhoods we serve,” said Marissa Eddings, senior director, digital and content marketing, 7-Eleven.

The goal of the murals, said Eddings, “is to capture each neighborhood’s energy through inclusive on-site murals in order to bring connection and creativity to local communities.” But there’s an added plus when customers take photos in front of the murals and tag 7-Eleven on social media, she added. Inside murals can bring some pizzazz to stores’ interiors, too.

Typically, when deciding on the artistic addition, 7-Eleven looks for stores in high-traffic areas with space that’s optimal for a mural, as well as stores located in areas “where we may have a special tie to the community,” Eddings noted. Several murals are at 7-Eleven’s Evolution concepts, “which are an experiential testing ground where we test new concepts, products and services before we scale them across the 7-Eleven system,” she said. “No Evolution stores are exactly alike—each site is specially outfitted to meet the needs of the neighborhood and customers it serves, making it the perfect place to host these bespoke murals.”

While 7-Eleven provides some guardrails to artists—general brand guidelines to follow—it mostly encourages them to express themselves creatively. “For example, we worked with painter and illustrator Mariell Guzman to capture the essence of the Lake Highlands neighborhood for her mural,” Eddings said.

Born in Michoacán, Mexico, Guzman pulled from her heritage to create murals with vibrant colors and a whimsical gaze. Guzman wanted to bring the rich heritage of her native homeland to the community where she works and creates.

While the retailer will spend a few weeks working with artists to align on a vision, the actual work of painting only takes two to four days.

Standing Out

FavTrip just opened its third store, in Grandview, Missouri, with fun murals inside and out. FavTrip’s two other stores, in Kansas City and Independence, Missouri, feature exterior and interior murals, too.

“We like being creative and thinking outside the box and having murals where people can take pictures,” said Babir Sultan, president and CEO of the convenience retailer. “And people like to take photos and post to social media,” he adds. The murals also help with visibility and branding.

Each of FavTrip’s murals is completely different, which brings personality to the specific stores, Sultan said, and each is done by a different artist, selected by customers in the community. The murals capture the artists’ unique styles with local flavor, featuring images as varied as President Truman (who was from Independence), Bugs Bunny, Martin Luther King Jr. and local landmarks.

Sultan put out a call on social media for artists or nominations for artists. “We like our customers to be involved and ask them who they prefer or have them choose a local artist,” he said. “It makes them feel a part of the store.” Customers voted for the artists they wanted via social media and in store. FavTrip trains employees to engage with its customers and ask them to vote, “when there’s not five people waiting in line,” Sultan says.

FavTrip started featuring murals on its exterior walls five years ago and is now repainting some of them. At its Grandview location, it’s taking a different approach and has asked some local high school students to design and paint the artwork. The students completed the inside first, and the outside is expected to be completed by the end of September. “More than 10 kids were involved, and we gave them gift cards,” Sultan said.

The interior murals “bring some life, some personality” to the stores, he said, with colorful, fun graphics and a modern feel.

“More than 10 kids were involved, and we gave them gift cards.”

Mendez Fuel in Miami has murals at all three locations, mostly to highlight its car washes. Alex Mijares, a friend of owner Michael Mendez, painted the first one in 2012, but over the past 11 years, each has been repainted around four times. “It’s usually that the chemicals from the car wash start eating the paint, so we have to blast it all off and [the artists] come back and repaint it,” said Mendez.

“The first mural didn’t last long because it was [Mijares’] first outdoor mural, so he was learning, and so was I, about the materials, the type of paint needed. Maybe we should have primed the wall beforehand, but we flew by the seat of our pants. Then it didn’t last long so by the second time he knew a lot more.”

Mendez opted to feature the murals “because we’re in this very ordinary business—it’s very vanilla, and I wondered, ‘How can we make something vanilla stand out?’” he said. He spoke to his customers “and the feedback we got from the community was they love that we brought art into their neighborhood and seeing it as they drive past. So we’re doing something right.”

And there’s no doubt it’s worth it, according to Mendez. “It’s community engagement without even trying. It helps sales, but more than anything else it brings people there. You get foot traffic, and we have people take pictures in front of it and sometimes they tag us or tag the artist. We had one group try to film a music video in front of it. All those tags and posts are worth money—that’s more eyeballs.”

Locally Sourced

Mendez and the artists have learned a lot over the years. Mijares hand-painted the first mural with a brush, “which is crazy,” said Mendez. “Then he realized he needed to get into spray-painting if he wanted to create murals. So he learned after that and he came back and spray-painted it because it came out so much better—much more vibrant.”

Mijares has created murals for Mendez locations on four separate occasions. Using spray paint is three to four times faster, he said, but he’s also started wrapping walls.

For this, he paints a picture in his home, takes an extremely high-resolution photograph of it and blows it up many times its original size. Once printed on PVC or vinyl, the image can then be applied to the wall with self-adhesive backing. The result looks like any painted mural, he says.

Wall wraps boast a number of advantages over traditional hand-painted murals. There’s minimal climbing and prolonged standing on equipment, which can sometimes be near dangerous elements like electrical wiring. Outside wraps don’t fade as quickly due to their UV protection, and they feature a coating which allows any graffiti to be easily wiped off. And finally, if anything does happen to the mural, a part, or the entire image, can be reprinted. “I tell my clients this is the best bang for your buck,” Mijares said. ”

“I wondered, ‘How can we make something vanilla stand out?’”

The cost of a wrap is fairly comparable to the initial cost of a mural, according to Mijares.

The fourth mural Mijares did—using a wrap—for Mendez Fuel was created in conjunction with Hard Rock, which teamed up with the convenience and fuel retailer for Hispanic Heritage Month. “Hard Rock will purchase the artwork, and I’ll incorporate the National Hispanic Heritage Month images,” Mijares said. “Hard Rock wants to do an activation at the space, so it will give Mendez a great deal of publicity.”

Mendez has also thought about working with a local art school to involve students. The convenience store would pay all expenses, which are typically between $1,500 and $2,000.

Most artists in training will do the work for free, “and it’s great exposure,” said Mendez. “Mijares has become a big artist over the past 10 years, and he sees the value of people seeing his work. Thousands of people drive past our car washes every day.”

“We want to stay local. We’ve had a lot of artists come and petition us to show us their work and say they want to do a mural,” Mendez said. When he selects artists, he has to make sure the art they plan to paint on the walls will be generally liked by customers in the local community and not offend anybody. Most recently, the Miami Dolphins of the NFL contacted him and suggested a mural incorporating the team at one of the car washes. “So there might be a new iteration in a partnership with the Miami Dolphins,” Mendez said.

Two of the murals will soon need an update, said Mendez. “When these come due, maybe we’ll do a little contest and people can send in submissions on social media and we’ll see if we get some viral feedback on who wants to paint our two car washes.”

Working With an Artist

The Local Spot in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, features a mural in the interior of its store painted by local artist Alixandra Jade.

The mural is above the beverage and snack coolers and features the phrases “Spot Your Drink” and “Snack Zone” along with colorful graphics of foods and beverages, bringing a modern and clean look to the store.

Jade painted the murals around five years ago. Around the same time another convenience store asked her to paint an interior mural, but this one had a very different vibe. HighEnd Convenience Store features a Mexican restaurant, and it “wanted something that when you came in, it was apparent it was different [than] a typical c-store,” she said. The convenience stores both are “boutiquey,” she said.

While the retailer will spend a few weeks working with artists to align on a vision, the actual work of painting only takes two to four days.

The Local Spot “wanted to add some personality to that area above the coolers,” she explained. “They pitched me that they wanted something to do with the drinks below, and they wanted the logo, and the rest was left to my creative freedom. Their logo features a teal cup, so we played off those colors and brought in some other things and colors without going too far.” The mural is around 40 feet long by five feet high.

The owner of HighEnd “wanted something Mexican-themed—Mexican-style street art—so we made it super bright and bold and fun and we played up the rich colors with the reds and yellow and oranges,” she said. The mural is 30 to 40 feet long and about 15 feet high. Both murals Jade painted are high up on the walls, which can be a dead spot in a lot of c-stores.

The murals took about a week to complete, but only because Jade was working another job during the day. She painted them in the evenings while the stores were still under construction. For the mural design process, she likes to allow four weeks. “Some clients, I send the sketch in the morning and it’s approved by the afternoon. Others take the full four weeks,” she said. The convenience stores “were pretty fast,” she added.

The paintings should last a long time, she said. “There are no kitchen fumes or weather. They could last 100 years . … There’s natural wear and tear, but they’re at such weird locations you don’t have to even worry about people bumping into them.”

Jade’s starting rate for murals is CA$5,000, but both convenience store paintings cost more. “It depends on what the owner sees in value return,” she said. “My goal as an artist is to make your money back 10 times over. It’s the atmosphere it creates—it’s subconscious.”

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Murals help 7-Eleven’s Evolution concepts stand out.

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Murals help 7-Eleven’s Evolution concepts stand out.

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At Mendez Fuel, murals on its car washes need to be repainted every few years.

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Local Spot requested a design that tied in with its drink offers.

Amanda Baltazar

Amanda Baltazar

Amanda Baltazar has been writing about foodservice and retail for trade magazines for more than 20 years. Read more of her work at

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