This summer, we launched our Sustainable Earth Small Business Awards (SESBA) and selected 15 winners who showcased outstanding sustainability commitments. Our new podcast, The Green Scene, dives into conversations with SESBA winners about their journey as sustainable business owners.

In our fourth episode of The Green Scene, Street Corner | Making Fresh Food Convenient, we sat down with Street Corner CEO, Vikram Dhillon. Dhillon is using his company to bridge the gap between a traditional convenience store and large grocery stores. With offerings ranging from fresh and healthy produce to hot, ready-to-eat meals, Street Corner aims to provide people with everything that they need. Their flagship store is being built as a part of Culdesac Tempe, a car-less neighborhood located in Tempe, Arizona. 

A convenient start

After working with 7-Eleven for 25 years, Dhillon decided he wanted to move on to a more family oriented company that had a positive impact. He gave up his 7-Eleven life and got involved with Street Corner. He and his family packed their bags and moved from San Diego, California out to Mesa, Arizona to start a Street Corner Urban Market at Culdesac Tempe. 

“Anywhere you see a convenient store, it’s the same stuff right?” Dhillon said. “You’ve got your cheap beer, tobacco, Snickers bar, chips, snacks, lottery scratchers, that’s about it. You wouldn’t go there to buy produce. That’s where we come in. On one end you have your urban markers, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Sprouts, right? And then you have 7-Eleven and Circle K. There’s nobody in the middle… I wanted to be the first one to do it. It’s not fair for certain communities not to have that fresh produce available, or organic food available. So we want to provide that for people from all walks of life.” 


Local support is just around the corner

At the beginning Dhillon faced a big challenge: not knowing the community his store would be built in. But, through his business partners at Culdesac Tempe, he made connections with associations and organizations. Recently he joined the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Tempe. Dhillon pointed out that the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is well connected with the community, and by going to meetings and networking events, he has been able to build connections with people. Street Corner has also partnered with Sun Produce Cooperative to source 10% of their produce from local farmers in Arizona. 

Supporting local businesses and local farmers is a core value for Dhillon and his company. He wants Street Corner to support other local businesses, because to him that is the future of small business. “Think about the neighborhood. Think about the community and what they need. A lot of communities are underserved. How can you fill that void of what’s not there?” Said Dhillon. “Do something positive. Do something good. If you can make money at it, great. If not, it is what it is. But don’t be scared to take a risk.” 

Dhillon’s ambitions go beyond offering fresh produce at Street Corner, and he plans to launch cooking classes for the youth in nearby neighborhoods. He is hoping that it will be yet another way to connect with the community and provide a positive impact locally. 

Getting connected

Dhillon has come a long way from his 7-Eleven life in California. Through a well-connected business partner and core social sustainability values, Dhillon has been able to build a store that aims to have a positive impact. His next goal as a CEO is to open more Street Corners in underserved communities. Street Corner Urban Market is set to open at Culdesac Tempe in 2022.