The Really Convenient Store
By Jordan Robertson

(Business 2.0) – Fluorescent lights. Bleary-Eyed salesclerks. Unsavory teens begging for beer. The downside to the convenience of convenience stores is evident as soon as you set foot inside, but 65-year-old entrepreneur Mike Rivalto thinks he has the problem licked. His SmartMart is the world's first fully automated, drive-through convenience store. The pilot SmartMart opened last May in Memphis, Tenn., and quickly turned profitable, according to Rivalto. Sales now run about $30,000 a month, he says, and overhead is 62 percent lower than in stores manned by people. Several oil companies are interested, and Rivalto hopes to open 100 new stores by the end of 2005. -- JORDAN ROBERTSON