Arts & Culture / Mosaic / May 23, 2012

Behind the counter

On a given afternoon on the corner of E. South Street and Academy Street, a small convenience store and gas station provides more than just snacks and cigarettes for some.

By day, Quick Sam’s Convenient Store, known as “the Quickie” by students, is a place where people in Galesburg come to fill up their tanks, pick up their daily pack of cigarettes or grab a bag of chips on their lunch break; by night, it is where many can be found going on last-minute alcohol runs and midnight snack binges. But it is also a place where owner Sampuran Ghoam, or “Sam,” has been spending the majority of his time in Galesburg, serving the area’s needs as the go-to gas station.

Ghoam moved to Galesburg from New Jersey in 2003, and he started his business right when he settled in.

“New Jersey was very expensive … [in Galesburg], there is more traffic,” he said, as customers poured in and out of his ad-plastered doors.

The location of Quick Sam’s between the Knox campus and a Galesburg neighborhood makes Ghoam’s business a bustling environment on a sunny spring afternoon. From construction workers to cops to nurses, from students to local youth and families, Ghoam’s modest little store offers a glance into the worlds of both the Knox community and the working people of Galesburg.

When asked about his Knox customers specifically, Ghoam responded with a smile.

“They are very nice … they buy everything … especially beer,” he said.

The regulars of the store, including those in the Knox community, make up a community in itself. One construction worker asked Ghoam if he needed any renovations done on any of his property. While putting down cash for a 40-ounce Cobra beer, he pointed to the building next door to say that he laid the foundation for the building 12 years ago. One other customer asked another for a ride down the street, and the driving customer kindly obliged.

Though a man of few words, Ghoam seems to have an understated rapport with his customers. Small talk abounds, and Ghoam often knows what products a regular wants before they even ask.

With the successful running of his business, Ghoam has become a familiar face in the community in and around Knox, with many customers often referring to him by name. He feels that all his customers are “friendly” and that it is a safer environment for a business than it was in New Jersey. He said he has had very few problems with crime since he moved, aside from an occasional fake ID rejection.

However, with Galesburg having an 8.5 percent unemployment rate, running a business still has its difficulties. With only three other people on staff, Ghoam said he has had problems retaining employees.

“There is an employee problem … sometimes if somebody quits and new ones have to [train] and everything … it’s not easy,” he said.

To supplement his store and balance out his income, Ghoam has also rented out a building on Academy Street that has recently been turned into a Quick Sam’s Mexican food restaurant. He has owned the property for two years.

Ghoam does not have any plans to leave Galesburg any time soon. The many faces of Galesburg will continue to coast through his shop’s doors, sometimes looking for a lottery ticket or a pack of Camels, or sometimes just for another friendly face.

Tags:  food Galesburg

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Samuel Brownson
Sam Brownson ’12 majored in philosophy and minored in anthropology and sociology. This is his second year copy editing for TKS; he is also currently a post-baccalaureate fellow in music and theater and will be composing the music for two productions as part of Knox’s Repertory Theatre Term. A self-described grammar Nazi, Sam worked as a TKS reporter and as a writer and editor for his high school newspaper before joining the TKS editorial staff. He also manages social media for Brownson Properties in Holland, Mich.

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