May 22, 2017
Despite varied lives in numerous places around the country, it was fate in Florida and a shared dream that brought Texas-native Nayola and Washington D.C.-born David Allen together.
“I was a divorced single mom,” Nayola said. “When I met Dave, I guess I had been single for eight, ten years and I had a friend—we went to law school together and we both graduated. She left, then came back while I was working at the Florida legislature. We kind of hooked up again. She ran for city commission and one day I said, ‘Look, you seem to be able to find eligible men in Tallahassee.’”
“Tallahassee, of course, is a two-college town,” Nayola continued. “Sometimes, being single there it's not always easy to date someone who is interesting and smart. [My friend said] ‘I’ve got somebody I want you to meet.’ It was horrible. Then, she said, ‘You know something? You could meet my neighbor. He’s really nice.’ It turned out to be Dave.”
In 1994, Nayola announced her plan for David and their future together. "Do the right thing,” David said Nayola told him. “’You're going to feed me, date me, marry me and buy a 7-Eleven.’ That's a true story.”
David was a computer developer by trade, and after working for the city of Tallahassee, they both moved to Maryland after 9/11. “We were determined to go into a business,” David said. “We wound up having to decide to find something to do, and 7-Eleven was actually one of my childhood dreams.
“Basically, it was something that we both liked doing, and we agreed that it was something we would pursue. I think that was in 2002.”
David began doing research. “We came across 7-Eleven, and it popped up during the research. 7-Eleven just came out of nowhere and just said [to us], ‘Look at a 7-Eleven.’ It was something like in the back, in the recess of my head, and it just popped up one day and said, ‘Hmm.’”
With the help of 7-Eleven corporate management, the Allens would open the first new 7-Eleven in Washington, D.C. in 30 years. “As a matter of fact, we didn’t realize it would be a brand-new store,” David said. But deciding on the right location was critical.
“We really liked the U Street history and the flavor of U Street, so that really better suited us,” Nayola said. “We also got a copy of D.C.’s comprehensive plan for that area, and we knew that gentrification was going on and there was going to be lots of residential units, condos, apartments and that kind of thing. In ten years from when we franchised, we thought there was the potential of quite a bit of growth.
“Little did we know just how,” Nayola said, “That it was even more growth than what we saw in the comprehensive plan. We felt very blessed to have picked that location.”
But one doesn’t just open a 7-Eleven and expect people to come. It takes promotion and knowing your neighborhood.
“It is a pleasure working with David and Nayola,” says Keith Carter, the Allens’ Field Consultant. “They are engaged in their business and open to suggestions to help their business grow. They are also engaged in the community with participation in Project A-Game and rewarding school kids who have good grades.”
The Allens are great supporters of education. They both sponsor a school and provide grants.
“As far as our customers go, I think we feel successful when we get so many comments like ‘I passed seven 7-Elevens to come to your store’ or ‘I live right next door to a 7-Eleven, but I come to your store’ or ‘Oh my goodness, you keep your store so clean,’” Nayola said. “I think all 7-Elevens have regulars, but then we know them by name. And it’s like a family and we greet each other each morning. It’s almost like me getting up, greeting David every morning. It’s like family.”
The success of the Allens’ 7-Eleven franchise is the culmination of sound research, hard work, strong support from 7-Eleven, knowing your customer and constantly evolving. Plus two people meeting in Tallahassee and discovering a shared dream.
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