Westside owners Q&A

The+owners+of+Westside+Market%2C+Lincoln%27s+most+popular+convenience+store.+From+left+to+right%3A+J.P.+Chevalier%2C+Sharon+Wong%2C+Ben+Wong.+

Michelle Yamamoto

The owners of Westside Market, Lincoln's most popular convenience store. From left to right: J.P. Chevalier, Sharon Wong, Ben Wong.

Cardinal Times reporter Michelle Yamamoto sat down with the owners of Westside a popular convenience store frequented by Lincoln students.

 

Names and fun facts:

Benton “Ben” Wong: “I eat Cheetos with chopsticks.”

JP Chevalier: “I love nature and people. I’m funny. I speak five different languages.”

Sharon Wong: “Ben and I are brother and sister… not married!”

 

When did you take over Westside?

Ben: 2016.

 

Why did you make that decision?

Ben: At the time, Phoebe, my daughter, was going here [Lincoln], and had heard about Westside. She finally found it, came in and thought it could better serve the school and the neighborhood. I think at the time I was just looking for a change, so I found that it was for sale, just out of the blue, like the week after I came in and looked at it, and Phoebe and my wife were looking at real estate ads and said ‘hey, that’s Westside! Westside’s for sale, Dad!’ A week later, I went in to ask about it, and like a month later I’m running it. Everything kind of came together.

 

What changes have you made to Westside and why?

Ben: Tons of changes, the big ones were to clean it up, bring in healthier options for students and for the neighborhood, change a lot of the selections, try to get it to be more locally focused, and connect more with the school. A lot is just to serve the community better, you know, just kinda try to be a bigger part of the neighborhood and the community. 

 

What’s your favorite part about running Westside?

JP: The kids are the most important, most of the reason we were here in the beginning, like Benton mentioned, was because of Phoebe, his daughter. For me, it has been a similar situation as well, because my son went to Lincoln High School and graduated. So when Benton called me and said ‘hey, you better be here,’ I dropped everything I was doing to be not only here for my son, but it came out to be that I have a purpose to be here. For you guys, to make sure that you get good service and also a good breakfast, a good lunch, a good snack. So, that’s basically it. That was our dream, our vision for Westside; to have a space for, mostly for you, the students, including the neighbors as well, but for you guys to have a place where you can have lunch, have a break, feel good about being in Westside.

Sharon: My favorite part is probably the customers. So, the students and the neighbors. I love them, they’re fun.

 

What are some challenges?

Ben: The stock– just like, keeping stuff on the shelves.

JP: It’s a never-ending battle, in terms of keeping, maintaining, or sustaining the business, because everyday Sharon and I go out and get bagels and go shopping for the store to try and get the best deals. We also have vendors that we have to communicate with to get our product on time. There are quite a few things to do. It may look good to you when you come here, but behind the scenes, there is more work. 

 

What can students do to improve experiences at Westside?

JP: Don’t steal. 

Ben: Be respectful to us, to the store, to other students, I think is a big one. 

Sharon: It’s not really about being patient, it’s really about being respectful. When they come in here, respect each other, as students, as customers.

Ben: And other customers, adults that come in here during break, or if it’s not a break and they’re here. Having an awareness and appreciation for, hopefully, we’re providing them a safe space to come hang, and do their homework, or whatever.

JP: And we’re not complaining, in terms of we have been very lucky to have a crowd of students who are very respectful this year. 

Ben: This class has been better than some of the other classes.

 

What’s your favorite product sold here?

JP: For me, fish. Goldfish. 

Sharon: Pepperidge Farm Goldfish.

JP: Maybe Yerba Mate for Ben, because he was the one who wanted to have the cooler here.

Ben: For me, it’s all the local products. The sushi, the bagels, the Mediterranean food, the sandwiches, all the fresh stuff. I think it’s nice to engage with these local companies that make this stuff. 

Sharon: Coffee’s local. I think it’s just the local products. Every muffin that I touch. 

JP and Ben: Sharon’s the muffin lady.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Sharon and Ben: Come on back!

JP: We also have suggestions. We have a little notepad where you guys can come, and if you have a request we maybe try to get that for you.

Ben: Yeah, we’re pretty good about that. Especially with the neighbors, the workers and stuff, if they think of something that they’d like to see us carry, we’ll do everything we can to bring that in. It’s harder with students because I don’t think everybody knows what they want.

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