I’m looking to open a small convenience store in a rural town. What licenses do I need?

Last Updated on

Quick Reference

Question – I’m looking to open a small convenience store in a rural town with a high school just down the road from the location that I’m interested in. I want to sell alcoholic drinks as well as tobacco products and food that needs to be prepared like sandwiches and pizza and then pop and other general merchandise. I need to know how to get the licenses I need and any other information.

Our Answer – 

The answer will vary depending on where you plan to open the business, but in general you will likely need: 
– Packaged liquor & tobacco. There is usually a state license or registration with the state taxing body like Department of Revenue or Taxation to sell both. Next, check with the City Clerk or maybe even Mayor depending on how small the town is as sometimes the Mayor handles multiple roles. The county may also require licensing. The city will probably advise you here but usually you would work through the County Clerk. 
– Fuel. Selling fuel will require the collection of sales taxes and similar to the liquor & tobacco, it’s usually an extra checkmark in the signup process with the Department of Revenue. 
– Prepared food. Yet another part of the signup process with the Department of Revenue since prepared food is usually taxed differently than other retail items. There is sometimes additional taxes at the local level so you may have additional local taxes. Check with the city and county to be sure. Many places the Department of Revenue handles all taxes and distributes to the local municipalities, but not in all areas. You will also need to have a Food Safety & Sanitation license from the county Health Department in most cases. A one-day class is typical to get this license.

I would recommend talking (maybe even volunteer to work for free) with an locally-owned convenience store in a few towns over so you aren’t viewed as competition and see if you can get the owner talk with you about running a store so you can learn from them.

A website that may be useful if you haven’t come across it yet is http://www.convenience.org. They have an interesting pdf of the industry too and talks about stores in rural areas – http://www.convenience.org/YourBusiness/Refresh/Documents/How-Stores-Work.pdf