Mission Market Opens Downtown
Often dingy and dimly lit, convenience stores don’t typically have shining reputations — but Roland Foss, owner of the newly opened Mission Market, is out to change that. Much more than an average convenience store, Mission Market has a welcoming, modern design and layout with deep red walls, warm lighting, and a mosaic-tiled back wall.
“We want to make Mission Market a place you want to shop at, versus a place you have to shop at,” says Foss.
A Fullerton resident since 2011, Foss lives in the City Pointe apartment building above the store and, wanting to improve urban convenience in Fullerton, recognized a need for a market within walking distance of downtown residences and offices that offered grab-and-go foods to people looking for convenience. The long lines at the McDonald’s across the street, a location frequented by Fullerton College and Fullerton Union High School students, indicated a demand for quick-service food options nearby.
While the store sells many standard convenience store items, such as pre-packaged salads and sandwiches, groceries, and snacks, its offerings go beyond typical to include organic pet food, freshly brewed carafes of coffee, and cans of Fanta imported from Europe and made with real orange juice. Foss has also partnered with local bakeries to sell baked goods made in Fullerton. After picking up a quick meal or snack, customers can microwave their food and eat at the store’s stand-up counter.
In the near future, Foss plans to launch a delivery service to serve downtown residents and offices; long-term goals include preparing salads and sandwiches onsite to further the range of options and quality for customers.
“There is not enough capacity to satisfy demand for quick-service options,” he says.
Although the market opened last week as scheduled, Foss has run into a major obstacle: obtaining a license to sell beer and wine. Foss is seeking an off-sale license, which requires customers to consume alcohol offsite. Per Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) rules, only three off-sale licenses are granted within a certain area; the downtown area currently has three off-sale licensed establishments, meaning that Foss must seek special permission from the city to submit a license application to the ABC in order to raise the concentration of off-licenses in the area.
Foss believes that selling a limited selection of beer and wine will increase the market’s relevance to customers, who expect convenience stores to offer alcohol. Alcohol sales would be mostly targeted at residents of the upstairs City Pointe apartments wanting to pick up a quick bottle of wine instead of driving to the store for one item; after surveying upstairs residents, Foss found that 62 percent would purchase alcohol from his store.
However, the Fullerton Police Department is concerned that the location’s proximity to a high school, a college, and a church will encourage minors to purchase alcohol at Mission Market. The police department also believes alcohol sales would contribute to tailgating or pre-gaming by of-age bargoers, who consume alcohol in downtown parking lots before hitting the bars.
Despite the police department’s protests, Foss hasn’t faced other petitions from the public, the church, or anti-alcohol activists. Intent on running a safe and lawful operation, he believes that the right restrictions (including a countertop ID scanner, prohibiting alcohol sales after 9PM, and a zero-tolerance policy for selling alcohol to underage patrons) will deter minors from trying to purchase alcohol illegally.
Foss is optimistic that his patience will pay off in what has turned out to be a long process, and is adamant in his belief that selling beer and wine will increase public convenience and necessity rather than adding to alcohol-related problems downtown — and, he notes, because he lives upstairs, he would be the first person affected if his business caused problems. If the license is not approved by June 12, he plans to put forth an appeal at a public hearing at the city planning commission meeting.
According to a 2011 study conducted by the city, Fullerton currently loses $2.7 million annually in alcohol sales to outside jurisdictions, indicating a need for more alcohol to be sold within city limits. Selling alcohol would attract more customers and encourage them to purchase other items from Mission Market, supporting a local small business and increasing the store’s competitive edge against large national retailers.