SHARING INDUSTRY KNOWLEDGE AND CONNEC TIONS
IDEAS 2 GO
UNDER ONE ROOF
A Miami convenience store has evolved into a fine-dining destination,
café and wine store — with gas pumps.
BY SARAH HAMAKER
At first glance, El Carajo has a bit of an identity crisis. From the outside, the Miami business appears to be a gasoline station and convenience store. But once inside, three other distinct personalities
emerge: the Bakery Café, the Wine Shoppe and the
International Tapas Restaurant.
“This is a developing idea based on my theory
that convenience stores need to evolve, that the
industry has been taken over by drugstores like
Walgreens and CVS,” said owner Ricardo Fonseca. “So we moved on to food and wine, and kept
When Fonseca first operated the BP-branded
gasoline station and convenience store in the late
1980s, he also ran a car wash attached to the store.
But 20 years ago, his love of fine wines pushed him
to take a gamble and convert the car wash into a
wine store stocked with more than 1,800 bottles of
“good wine,” as he put it. Today, the Wine Shoppe
has more than 2,200 bottles for sale. “We chose
wine because it requires a lot more skill to serve
and stock,” he said. “We also wanted to be set apart
in the marketplace.”
Soon after the Wine Shoppe launched, a trip to
Italy fired Fonseca’s imagination. Upon his return,
Fonseca tried a number of different formats to try
to capture the taste and feel of the gourmet food he
More than 2,200 bottles of wine differentiate
El Carajo from other convenience stores.