Thursday, July 19, 2007

Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart?

When it was announced that promotions for the upcoming The Simpsons Movie would include converting eleven 7-11 convenience stores to Kwik-E-Marts (the show's popular, price-gouging quick stop run by Apu), Chris and I discussed road tripping to wherever the closest location might be.

As it turned out, we didn't have to road trip very far as an outlet in Bladensburg, MD was honored with one of the coveted spots. With time running out – I think the promotion only runs until next week when the flick opens – we took a few hours out of our day and headed down I-95 to check it out.

Here's a tip. If you get off 95 at the Bladensburg/Greenbelt exit, check your odometer. You'll actually come upon another 7-11 before you get to the full-blown Kwik-E-Mart and I'm not sure it looks like the kind of place you'd want to stop unless you really had to. (In fact, it appeared to be further proof that as THG pal WP Tandy says, "You never come out of a 7-11 and say, 'Wow, that was a really clean 7-11!'").

Thanks to my trusty navigator we pressed on and found the Kwik-E-Mart sitting on a corner lot. Sure enough, the building's signs had been covered with KEM graphics, the facade redone to feature such popular characters as Marge Simpson and Comic Book Guy. (That's me up above with Comic Book Guy outside the store. Before anybody asks I'm the nerd on the right.)

Upon entering the store any Simpsons fan will be almost overcome by the sensory overload. A life size Apu waits to greet you and pose for photos, Chief Wiggum "guards" the hot dog display, and – in a nod to one of my favorite moments – Jasper aka Frostilicus remains encased in the icy freezer.

But it doesn't stop there... cans of Buzz Cola sit on the shelves next to Frosted Krusty-O's. The Slurpee machines now tout Squishee graphics. Even the neon-pink frosted donut that adorns the film's promo posters is available for purchase.

After merrily snapping photos and gathering up an armload of Simpsons booty to bring home, we got in line. A woman who works for a company that audits and re-stocks the store's magazine shelves approached the store clerk – a pleasant, hard-working, ever-smiling immigrant decked out in a Kwik-E-Mart shirt – to discuss some business.

Blissfully unaware of the promotion – and apparently blind to the hundreds of Simpsons-related items adorning the outside and inside of the establishment – she informed the nodding, smiling clerk that though she didn't know the name of the store had changed it was still on her route and she'd still be performing her service.

We checked out and I resisted the urge to snap a photo of the poor guy behind the counter who was just doing his job and didn't ask to be pulled into this whole crazy marketing scheme. As I took our bag of goodies and turned to leave he blurted out, "Oh, wait... thank you, come again!", Apu's trademark catchphrase.

I turned around and as the smile sort of faded from his face I asked, "How sick are you of saying that?"

The smile returned, he nodded vigorously and told me what I suspected... "Oh, very."

Click here to see all our Kwik-E-Mart photos.


Cinema Suicide said...

Sweet! I just looked at the directory of Kwik-E-Marts and you lucked out huge. There's 12 Kwik-E-Marts in total around the country (1 in Canada) and not one even remotely close to New England.

That Simpsons swag is going to be selling like crazy on ebay.

I've been a little hard on The Simpsons over the last several seasons as I think the quality has fallen off considerably. I have high hopes that the movie will be great, though. I figure if you're going to give the greatest American cultural item of the 20th century the movie treatment, you're going to pull out all the stops. They dragged out the originators of the series for the script, but I was really hoping for some Conan O'Brien involvement.

Dan said...

You're totally right... I *never* expected there to be one right in my own backyard. I was willing to drive plenty far for this promo.

I agree with you about recent seasons of the show. It's not nearly as good as it once was, but it still provides a few laughs even this long into its run. I'm holding out hope, too, based on the fact that this has been about three years in the making according to Groening. Some Conan involvement would have been great as he was behind the scenes for some of the best seasons ever.

I'm curious about how the stuff does on eBay. I'm betting a lot of people speculated and stocked up. I'm wondering if there's going to be a glut. I purposely stayed away from doing that and just bought a few things I'll actually use.

I write a newspaper column on eBay and did a Simpsons one for last week's paper. I went back and used a 2004 column as a framework and I was surprised to see how prices for a lot of Simpsons stuff has fallen off in the last three years, as much as 50% or more in many cases.