Every weekday when most most people are deep in sleep, Bob Sharp and his family are already up and working.
Sharp is the owner of the Local Express convenience store on South Green Street, which has a near-cult following with its food offerings.
And at 3 a.m. during the week, Sharp, as well as his daughter, Patrice, and son, James, are at the store getting ready for the day, getting breakfast ready and prepping for lunch later.
“I was fearful of going into the restaurant business just because of the nature of the way it’s set up,” Sharp said. “This is different. With a hot box, when it’s gone, it’s gone, and you’re done.”
Without fail, workers drop by the store in the morning and around lunch to grab a bite to eat. The top sellers are the biscuits, which can come in combinations of sausage, baloney, bacon, egg, steak and cheese. The smoked half-pound burgers and pork riblets also are the top sellers at lunch.
Patrice, who’s chipping in as the cook while the regular cook is out, said the sausage, egg and cheese on a bun also is very popular.
“A lot of people come here just for our bun-breakfast items, because not a lot of places offer breakfast on a bun,” she said. “So we’ll throw on some egg and bacon and some ham, bacon, baloney or sausage.”
The store is ideally located directly across from the Philips plant, about a mile from Cooper Tire and only a few blocks from North Mississippi Medical Center and several other area medical providers.
Food sales drive the business at the store, and customers are willing to travel to get it.
“We have some people who drive from across town to get food,” said Bob, who bought the store a year ago.
So is it a convenience store that happens to sell food, or a food shop that happens to sell gas?
“Probably a food place that’s happy to sell gas,” said Sharp with a laugh.
And there’s little doubt that hot and prepared food help drive sales at convenience stores these days.
The National Association of Convenience Stores says its industry is a destination for food and refreshments, citing food service sales rising as revenue from fuels and tobacco products fall.
Convenience store food service is roughly a $61 billion industry contributing about 22 percent to in-store sales. Seven years ago, food sales accounted for only 10 percent of store sales.