How to

Start a Convenience Store

  • 1

    Create Your Business

  • 2

    Plan Your Space

  • 3

    Apply for Permits

  • 4

    Begin Construction

  • 5

    Prepare to Open

  • 6

    Open Your Doors

Step 1: Create Your Business

Creating your business involves knowing the type of store you will open, and figuring out the licenses and insurance needed to get it off the ground.

First register your business: LLC’s, Corporations, and Limited Partnerships with NY State; General Partnerships and Sole Proprietorships with the County Clerk. An EIN (Employer Identification Number), also known as a Federal Tax ID Number is will identify your business, so applying for that is an important early step. If you’re a sole proprietor, you may be able to use your Social Security Number. Apply for a Sales Tax ID from NY State and look into other licenses you may need.

Step 2: Plan Your Space

Planning your space properly can minimize potential overages and future difficulties.

Find a location zoned for your business and consult a licensed professional to review your location and plan any construction. Only a registered architect or professional engineer may submit plans to the NYC Department of Buildings. Changes to your space must comply with the NYC Department of Buildings, Department of Health and Fire Department. Allow time for approvals if your building is landmarked or in a historic district.

If you serve food, check your kitchen’s grease interceptor or plan to install one. Also, health violations can be identified after you open so pay attention now to avoid costly changes in the future.

Step 3: Apply for Permits

Have your licensed professional submit plans and required documents to the NYC Department of Buildings and apply for construction permits.

Changes are often made to plans if there are objections due to safety or compliance issues, so make sure to be in contact with your licensed professional during each step of the construction process.

Monitor your job on NYC Department of Buildings BISWeb and if you are using stoves or gas ovens, make sure your licensed professional files plans with the fire department. Research “Professional Certification” (Pro Cert) to potentially save you weeks in receiving approvals and permits.

Have your licensed professional submit digital plans to the NYC Department of Buildings Hub. Make sure you consult with your team to identify utility requirements for your property as well: gas, electric, water and sewer.

Step 4: Begin Construction

After your plans are approved and your architect or general contractor has applied for and received all necessary permits, it’s time to begin construction.

All permits must be displayed at the worksite. Progress inspections will be made throughout construction but make sure you discuss any required progress inspections with your licensed professional so that you’re aware of them. If you want to install a canopy or signs on the outside of the building, ensure you comply with the NYC Department of Transportation or the NYC Department of Buildings.

Step 5: Prepare to Open

When the job is almost complete, prepare to open.

Your architect should arrange for final inspections. To avoid violations, obtain a Certificate of Occupancy, Temporary Certificate of Occupancy or Letter of Completion before opening. If preparing food on site, you’ll need a permit. If food makes up more than 50% of your revenue, you’ll need a Food Service Establishment Permit. If it’s less than 50% you’ll need a Food Processing Establishment License. For a Retail Food Store License (packaged food/beverages) visit here. Make sure you get a Food Protection Certificate and learn all you need to know about serving food.

Ensure your register prints your business name and address on all receipts and hire a private carting service for waste removal. You will need different licenses to sell beer, cigarettes or lottery tickets.

Step 6: Open Your Doors

You’ve opened your doors and are operating your convenience store - congratulations!

Plan ahead to keep things running smoothly. Post all required posters and permits, such as signs for your CPR kits and No Smoking. Schedule equipment maintenance and set reminders in your calendar to review your permits and licenses. Be ready for inspections that happen throughout the year, sometimes unannounced. Monitor your goods to ensure you comply with expiration dates and work with your accountant to prepare to pay taxes. Note that animals are not permitted on premises; only service animals are permitted.