Photo courtesy of VIP Records.
World Famous VIP Records is calling for a boycott of a 7-Eleven scheduled to open at the former record store’s location in Central Long Beach this December.
While VIP Records has jumped major hurdles in saving its iconic sign, its former site is the latest subject of contention after an unofficial agreement with the owner of that 7-Eleven was unexpectedly severed.
According to VIP Records’ president, Shirin Senegal, the heads of both companies have been in talks about building out the space 7-Eleven plans to move into a mini museum to reflect VIP’s history with a plaque, historical photos and even sell memorabilia.
Senegal said this agreement was made through conversations and emails in August.
“From a financial perspective for us to move it [the sign] to a new building—a huge cost, money we don’t have—so we figured okay how do we preserve it, keep it where it’s at as we find a bigger location to build the ultimate goal which would be the black music museum and multimedia center so with 7-Eleven they would have actually built out their store to reflect the VIP theme so that we could coordinate and build side by side and create an experience under the historic landmark,” Senegal told the Post.
In addition to the expanded convenience store, VIP Records was also in the middle of finalizing a lease contract with the property owner to create a small restaurant and multimedia center at another part of the strip mall. Then, in the beginning of September, Senegal said she reached out to 7-Eleven to discuss designs for the expanded space.
“She [7-Eleven representative] sends me an email back saying ‘Hi how are you, we decided we’re going to donate $50,000 to Poly and we‘re going to be working with the community but there’s no need for you guys to contact us anymore,” Senegal summarized.
Those $50,000 were initially earmarked by 7-Eleven to invest in the store’s expansion, something they volunteered to do, Senegal said.
She believes the owner felt limited with this mini museum plan and could be the ultimate reason why they ended discussions with VIP Records. Now VIP Records is circulating a petition calling on 7-Eleven to follow through on its commitment to preserve the site or they will call for a boycott.
“I am happy that 7-Eleven donated money to Poly High School because the school needs the support,” Kelvin Anderson, founder of VIP Records, said in a statement. “I have watched young people graduate from Poly for almost 40 years and have employed and mentored many of them. I am just disappointed at the tactics that 7-Eleven used because this Historic Designation and our plans were about long term economic opportunity, jobs and growth.”
A request for comment from 7-Eleven and the store’s owner was not immediately returned.
While VIP Records calls for a boycott of the store once its opened, John Edmond, chief of staff for Councilmember Dee Andrews who represents the Sixth District—and the store—says Andrews’ office stands ready and willing to help with negotiation talks between the two businesses.
While the Long Beach City Council approved in May the transfer of $80,000 in discretionary infrastructure funds from the Sixth District to help aid in the costs associated with removing, preserving and temporarily storing the sign, Edmond emphasized that the city’s job isn’t to open a museum or keep VIP Records in business.
“The things that we could do, which is to facilitate management of preserving the sign, we did,” Edmond noted.
He also pointed to the fact that Andrews’ office has suggested moving VIP Records to a local park where they could provide music programming at a teen center and other options.
Ultimately, for Senegal and VIP Records, it’s about developing Central Long Beach to reflect the African American history that was once rich and thriving and bring back black-owned businesses and culture.
“In all truth, the easiest thing for us would have been to take it downtown—the tourist place of Long Beach, to put it there—and we would’ve been great from a financial perspective for us as a brand,” Senegal said. “But as advocates and as people who care about the community, do you keep stripping the inner city of their culture and their history?”