Mini-Mart Millionaire: Real life opportunity for financial prosperity

So boring. So profitable.

Ever wonder about the lives of those behind the counter at your local mini-mart? These corner stores are a familiar site in our great land, and provide the convenience of a late-night source of headache-reducing substances equally well as ensuring I have the organic Tillamook sweet-cream, salted butter that is a staple in most of my recipes.

Behind the counters are a mix of people. At my local convenience store stands a young woman in her twenties, who dated a meth-head addict until he wound up in jail, she pregnant, and this was the impetus for her to quit using her own preferred illegal substances (pot) and turn to a healthier lifestyle. Beyond recognizing me (for she can’t quite remember my name, although she’s been clean for nearly six months), she’s even stopped dying her hair rainbow colors and let it go to a natural, dirty brown, so she can continue her incubation in the healthiest manner possible.

Not far down the road is another mini-mart. This is less convenient (for it lacks the country feel), it’s been around for decades. The old man behind the counter reminds me of Methusela, for he must be at least 900 years old. He’s matter-of-fact, but in a kind, old-school type of a way, that bespeaks of a person who’s seen it all, but doesn’t suffer from the cynicism that afflicts many older folks (age is only a number right? I’ve seen 25 yr olds with enough cynicism for a fleet of younger, less encumbered seniors). At the same time, he’s got this don’t-mess-with-me air, that conjures images of him serving in the military.

It turns out that he’s a multi-millionaire, and the convenience store was his first business venture. When he was young and married, he opened the joint, raised two sons with his wife and started diversifying. First it was storage units, then it was more corner-store marts, then more storage units. You get the picture. Two businesses that will always be necessary. He also started buying land, bit by bit. Back in those days, land was plentiful, since the great migratory push from California hadn’t yet started. By the time the eighties came around, and Californian’s (and Europeans for that matter) realized that Washington is blessed with lots of water and no state income tax, this man and his wife owned several mountains outside Seattle, past Bellevue.

As one of my friends from England told me “it’s clear, beautiful and reminds me of our vacation home. It’s the perfect place in the world.” On a lark, my English friend had vacationed here 16 years ago and moved permanently when the school year ended.

This last month, my mini-mart friend (who I still mentally refer to as Methusala), sold yet another hillside for….$285Million (yes, with an M) to a batch of developers.

“I had to,” he told me. In a bit of irony, what he had acquired had increased in value to dramatically that he couldn’t afford to pay the taxes, which increased every year. He’d tried to hold on to the land for a nature preserve, but isn’t “blessed with the deep pockets of Bill and Melinda.” Bit by bit, he’d sold off land, and finally, he gave up the entire lot.

“I’ll always have my mini-mart,” he said. The thing profits (and I mean, profits) about $5M a year, he told me. (Thus, the eternal question of all car-driving people is answered “why is it two cents a gallon right across the street??” The answer, my dear friends, is that every two cents adds up to hundreds of thousands, and millions of dollars. The end).

Because I’m an inquisitive kind of gal, I ask him: “do you have any other wealth-producing tips?”

He smirks. I’m sure he wants to tell me he’s cheap and works hard, that he’ll go to his grave with the till ringing (because men of that era believe that retirement is an dirty word). But he must see I’m sincere, and proffers a few nuggets of wisdom for my future financial prosperity.

1. buy used. Let someone else eat the depreciation of a car. “But get the extended warranty.”
2. do it yourself. Time is money, “if you have money,” he said wrily. “Adults today waste more money they don’t have by getting someone else to do it because they think their time is so valuable. It’s not. It’s money that stays in your pocket instead of going into someone else’s.
3. go discount. That includes the movie theatre. My husband knows all about this. He only (and I mean only) goes to the $3 dollar showtimes. Not so great for date-nights, but then I don’t even know what that is, so I guess I’m not missing anything.
4. Just start. Ah. As an author, my favorite adage. It’s what my movie producer says. It’s what my voice teacher says. Just start. Results (e.g. money) will come. And if you apply the above rules “you can’t help but save,” said Mr. MMM (mini-mart-millionaire).
5. Hold on as long as you can. He did that with his land, and even then, it was painful for him to watch his hard-earned asset leave his hands.

With that wisdom stuck in my head, I grabbed my M & M’s and went to the other gas station that was 2 cents cheaper.