Gas Station Sushi Anything but Fishy

Raw fish, fuel and c-store merchandise are a winning combination for a BP station in Memphis.

March 25, 2013

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - While some c-store retailers around the world may struggle to find their niche in the foodservice arena, one BP station in Memphis is successfully attracting customers with anything but roller-grill fare.

Lee??s Fresh Sushi & Deli, a BP station in Memphis, is known as the "sushi gas station." Store manager Jung Jin "JJ" Lee says that the grab-and-go sushi is made fresh daily inside the gas station??s small deli counter, reports NPR. Lee says that one of the reasons for the success of his sushi program is that he gets the same ingredients from the same place as local restaurants.

"It??s not like we have any oceans, or lakes or rivers where we could can catch tuna and then cut it up ourselves. So, we all have to get the ingredients from the same vendors," Lee told the news source, adding, "You know, we still have a health department testing like every other restaurant."

Lee??s family purchased the BP gas station in 2002. After seeing a similar idea of grab-and-go sushi in Detroit, the family decided to test it out in Memphis. If it failed, they planned to move on to something else. But they never had to ?" the store sells about 300 sushi boxes a day.

Lee??s store also delivers its sushi to the cafeterias at the local Nike distribution centers in Memphis, as well as several catering companies. The gas station has also been featured in Gourmet magazine.

Most of the sushi??s success, however, has been through word of mouth among local loyalists. For Elizabeth Saxton, Lee??s sushi is the only sushi she??s ever had from a gas station, and encourages her friends to "not be afraid, or think that it would not be good just because it is from a gas station," she told the news source.

So far Lee isn??t considering a separate restaurant; other c-store merchandise is important to his inside sales, such as cigarettes, beer and candy.

Oh ?" that catchy Esurance commercial that says: "We all make bad decisions??like, say, gas station sushi." Turns out the insurance company wanted to be sure Lee wasn??t in the crosshairs of their ad campaign. NPR writes that a company spokesperson and Lee have spoken on the phone: "Matter of fact, I was contacted by Esurance," Lee said. "Saying that it [the commercial] wasn??t, it wasn??t directly to you. He actually didn??t know there was such a thing."