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January 28, 2022

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For the first Black owner of a 7-Eleven in Las Vegas, store is a place of dreams

Johnathan Lacy: 7-Eleven Owner

Steve Marcus

Johnathan Lacy hugs with his mother, Jenise Lacy, in his 7-Eleven store on East Tropicana Avenue at Pecos Road Tuesday, May 4, 2021. His mother came from Los Angeles to help him with the store. Lacy is thought to be the first Black 7-Eleven owner in Las Vegas, according to a trade organization.

Johnathan Lacy: 7-Eleven Owner

A view of Johnathan Lacy's 7-Eleven store on East Tropicana Avenue at Pecos Road Tuesday, May 4, 2021. Lacy may be the first Black 7-Eleven owner in Las Vegas, according to a trade organization. Launch slideshow »

Johnathan Lacy’s time was in demand on a recent morning at the convenience store he owns in east Las Vegas.

The 30-year-old Lacy is full of energy in going from project to project, including coordinating with a beer distributor on a delivery and explaining to an employee that the Frito-Lay guy who delivers bags of chips stocks them himself.

While it seems overwhelming, it’s exactly what the Los Angeles transplant signed up for when he bought a 7-Eleven franchise April 29 on East Tropicana Avenue and South Pecos Road. He’s believed to be one of the first Black owners of a 7-Eleven franchise in the valley.

A finance major at Cal Poly Pomona, Lacy wanted to move to Las Vegas to be closer to his father, retired firefighter Michael Matthis. Equally important: He wanted to follow his dream of being a small-business owner.

Since then, it’s been plenty of 20-hour work days — and plenty of visitors stopping by to show support. When he posted on Twitter that the Black-owned venture was up and running, many in the community showed up in support. The love, in fact, has been overwhelming, he says with a smile.

“This is something that I figured would help me and my family, but also this community,” Lacy said. “When I looked at purchasing a 7-Eleven, I liked this one the most. I was comfortable with the people here. This neighborhood and all the customers have given me a lot of love and I appreciate it.”

Lacy split his childhood between Las Vegas and Los Angeles. His brother works as a paramedic here and his mother, Jenise Lacy, is in town from Los Angeles to help with the store. Like many businesses emerging from the pandemic, hiring — and hiring reliable help — has been a challenge.

“I’m very proud of him,” Jenise Lacy said. “When he said he wanted to own a 7-Eleven, I thought ‘of all things, a 7-Eleven?’ I just said, all right, let’s do it. He wanted to be his own boss and he wanted to own something.”

There are about 200 7-Eleven stores in Las Vegas. A representative of the Las Vegas chapter of the Association of 7-Eleven Franchisees said they believed Lacy to be the first Black franchisee in Las Vegas, although they couldn’t be certain.

He hopes to pave the way for more minority business owners in Southern Nevada, saying it’s important for young people — especially those of color — to know the possibilities are endless. 

“Being a small-business owner, you’re not only a boss, but you’re also counseling people and teaching people new skills … giving them tools. I’m a teacher at heart,” he said.

Lacy credits his uncle Tyrei Lacy, known as DJ Tee in L.A. hip hop circles, with helping to instill his can-do attitude. Tyrei, whose advice to his nephew is to “figure it out” when he encounters an issue, owns two bars in Los Angeles.

“I think sometimes our younger generation is not exposed to enough different things,” Lacy said. “I would tell people to expose themselves to lots of different things. Get a job to see if you like it — I think we’re all trying to figure that out. Don’t stop until someone tells you no and, even then, just keep pushing and pushing. That’s what I did.”

Lacy’s goal is to own four 7-Eleven franchises by the time he’s 40, and 10 by the time he reaches 50.

“I was terrified before I got the keys to this place,” Lacy said. “But I’ve gotten so much support, and there’s so much good energy, it gives me more energy. There’s pressure, yes, but I love it. It feels good right now.”