Circle K moves into downtown Chicago

Convenience store plans to open 10 new locations

190 West Madison Street and Circle K's Chris Barnes (Google Maps, LinkedIn, Getty)
190 West Madison Street and Circle K's Chris Barnes (Google Maps, LinkedIn, Getty)

Chicagoans will soon have another convenience store option.

Circle K is leasing smaller-format outlets throughout the Loop and plans to open 10 locations in the area, the first at the end of August, the Chicago Sun-Times reported. It’s taking on 7-Eleven and providing relief for some landlords whose stores have sat empty since the pandemic.

“We are finding new ways to meet customers where they are,” Circle K spokesman Chris Barnes told the outlet.

The first Circle K store will be at 190 West Madison Street. The company’s “urban formats” are about half the size of a typical roadside Circle K and won’t have gas pumps or car washes. Circle K already has similar stores in Dublin, Hong Kong, Montreal and Boston.

Circle K is making an “educated bet,” on the Loop, Stone Real Estate’s John Vance told the publication, noting that Loop retail vacancies rose to 27 percent at the end of last year and that most of Circle K’s sites are on corner lots. “I do believe the Loop retail market has hit bottom and is recovering.”

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Data from security firm Kastle Systems shows that offices in downtown Chicago are about 40 percent occupied, about where it’s been since spring. While pedestrian traffic is rising, it’s still about 25 percent below pre-pandemic levels.

Circle K’s other Loop locations will be at 2 North Wabash Avenue, 36 West Ohio Street, 139 South Clinton Street, 180 North Wacker Drive, 200 North LaSalle Street, 676 North LaSalle Street, 733 South Dearborn Street and 850 North State Street.

The larger 7-Eleven chain has more than 30 stores downtown and on the Near North, West and South sides. The company absorbed the White Hen Pantry chain in 2006.

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— Victoria Pruitt