The Cavalier Daily
Serving the University Community Since 1890

7 Day Harry is for the people

A spotlight on the iconic Corner business owner and the importance of good company

<p>As long as 7 Day Junior remains open, Patel will continue to spread kindness and encourage people to do good deeds for each other.&nbsp;</p>

As long as 7 Day Junior remains open, Patel will continue to spread kindness and encourage people to do good deeds for each other. 

Most transactions on the Corner are simply monetary exchanges between buyer and seller. But to Hiren Patel, business partner at the 14th Street 7 Day Junior convenience store, check-out means more than over-the-counter small talk. Known fondly as “Harry,” Patel greets passersby on the Corner with lively conversation and a familiar smile, nurturing a sense of community with students that extends far beyond his store.

Since he moved to Charlottesville in 2020, Patel has supplied students and local residents with snacks, beverages and everyday items. Upbeat music can be heard pumping from his store up and down 14th Street. Originally from India, Patel took up a manufacturing job at Tesla’s Gigafactory Nevada before working at a gas station in Midlothian, Va. After a professional journey that brought him halfway around the world, he now calls Charlottesville home, attributing his love of the city to the students who frequent his store.

“I got my anchor in Charlottesville,” Patel said. “I cannot think of leaving Charlottesville and leaving the students. They make me feel special around here, and nobody has made me feel like that in my entire life.” 

Patel goes above and beyond in his business mission. As seen on his Instagram account, he has fostered friendships with many University students. If customers feel unsafe on the Corner, he welcomes them inside his store. He also takes time to identify what students want in a college town, regularly strolling down the Corner to survey everyday student life.

“People see me walking around, but it’s not my normal walk. It's an observational walk,” Patel said. “I observe what people are doing, what people want, when people want.”

For Patel, listening to students’ needs is fundamental to his service. 7 Day Junior used to primarily sell alcohol, but Patel noticed that many students came to his store seeking milk. He now keeps milk consistently in stock, even if the cartons spoil before they are purchased.

“I try to keep in touch with the students,” Patel said. “I try to talk to them and make them comfortable so they tell me what they want on a regular routine day.”

According to Patel, showing humility is just as important to his business as gauging customer needs. He described multiple ways in which 7 Day Junior provides selfless, unseen service to the community. 

“A lot of people don't know we donate every year to communities who do fundraising events for the [University] hospital, breast cancer and orphan housing,” Patel said. “We don't advertise that we're doing this for the community.”

Within Patel’s customer base, University students are his most animated patrons. He explained how students bring a special energy to his store.

“Working with the students is more joyful for me because I enjoy [their] company,” Patel said. “The environment that students create here — I don't get that with the neighborhood.”

The admiration is mutual for students. According to second-year College student Sofia Todaro, trips to 7 Day Junior create a sense of community that feels like home. 

“Whenever I see Harry, he greets me with a smile and a hug and just brightens my day,” Todaro said. “Most of us [students] may be from Virginia, but we're a few hours away from home. 7 Day feels like home in such a big environment.”

In the spirit of friendship, Patel is not afraid to withhold items in the interest of his customers. He has refused to sell products to students whom he believed might fall down dangerous paths. For instance, when one student sought out nicotine to cope with a bad grade, Patel put his foot down.

“I told [the student], ‘You never buy this. You never buy cigarettes. You don’t need it,’” Patel said. “After three days, [the student] told me, ‘Thank God. You just saved me from smoking those cigarettes.’”

Patel’s interaction with this student motivated him to intervene if he felt that other students were relying too heavily on substances. In his eyes, a profitable life is not one marked by sales, but by compassion.

“I decided I have to stay here to see if I could help two or three students a year. If I help them avoid something, I’d think my life is a success,” Patel said.

This compassion is reciprocated by students — whenever Patel faces difficulties as a store owner, he said students have helped alleviate these challenges. For instance, when a few 7 Day Junior employees faced language barriers with customers, students treated them with respect — a gesture that did not go unnoticed by Patel.

“I think that students and the gratitude they have is better than [other customers in] the neighborhood,” Patel said. “One of my [employees] doesn't speak English that much, but [students] still treat him the same way as they treat me — with respect.”

Whether offering a simple smile, shelter or a friend in a time of need, Patel’s presence on the Corner fosters joy and respect in the Charlottesville community. As long as 7 Day Junior remains open, Patel will continue to spread kindness and encourage people to do good deeds for each other.

“When you do something good to somebody, they keep it in their head,” Patel said. “And when somebody else needs help, they try to help them too. Just try to make that cycle.” 


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