(Image courtesy of Typophile.com)
Now why would something like “America’s Most Famous Convenience Store” be something to brag about? What makes it so famous? Well, it just so happens that Leonardo, New Jersey’s QuickStop Groceries is the Convenience Store that served as the primary setting location for one of the independent film industry’s most successful movies of all time, Clerks.
The QuickStop is located at 58 Leonard Ave. in Leonardo, just off NJ 36 North right above Atlantic Highlands. In the early 1990s, now-famous film director Kevin Smith put together his masterpiece, Clerks, shot in black and white with a budget of roughly only $27,000. Smith also worked for the QuickStop at the time, and was granted permission to film scenes at night.
Production photo of actor Brian O’Halloran as Dante at the QuickStop front counter. Currently, the front counter no longer features an ice cream cooler at the front and the overhead clock and Marlboro banner are both gone as well. (Photo courtesy of ViewAskew.com)
The film focuses primarily on an average day-in-the-life gone wrong for two convenience store clerks, Dante (played by Brian O’Halloran) and Randall (played by Jeff Anderson). Both characters are QuickStop employees, with Randall also occupy the RST Video register next door. While Dante is an overly-serious employee, Randall often makes comments and remarks in reaction to Dante that can sometimes be overly crude or offensive but are still completely hilarious. The film had originally received an NC-17 rating due to the content of the dialogue. Dante deals with a myriad of different issues in the film including relationship troubles, difficult/odd customers, and even a dead customer! While Dante and Randall have very little interaction with Jay & Silent Bob in the film, they do express a certain dislike for the duo.
Employee bathroom where one of the film’s most shocking and hilarious situations takes place. (Photo courtesy of Yelp User “Michael G”)
Smith released Clerks in 1994, and has since become a major director in the film industry. The film also is the first to feature Smith’s most iconic creations, Jay & Silent Bob. Silent Bob was also portrayed by Smith in the film and every subsequent appearance afterwards. While Jay is a loudmouth who often says whatever is on his mind, Silent Bob mostly expresses himself nonverbally but will speak when he feels he has something important to say.
The QuickStop made a few more appearances in some of Smith’s later films. It was mentioned in his film Chasing Amy, featured in parts of Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, and at the beginning and end of Clerks II. Since then, the place has become an underground mecca of sorts for both fans of independent films and Smith’s creative works. As both a New Jersey resident and a huge Kevin Smith fan, I have made multiple visits to this place.
Above is a picture of how QuickStop appears from the outside. There is a long strip of two or three more abandoned store fronts not visible in this photo, and the RST video storefront no longer sports the sign above its window. This is where Jay & Silent Bob often loiter in their films and sell weed to neighborhood kids. (Photo courtesy of Yelp user “Y.W.”)
Pulling up to the place always gives me a giddy excitement that I am visiting the place where one of my favorite films was shot. You can literally park outside, lean up against the same wall Jay & Silent Bob did for most of the film, and just take it all in right from the start. Then, you remember you can actually go inside and view the place for yourself. Though RST Video is no longer a business, you can still peek inside and see shelves still full of video cassettes amongst various storage items. Perhaps Smith has some sort of ownership of that storefront to retain it for filming purposes?
How the abandoned RST Video appears from inside. (Photo courtesy of Yelp User “Tiffany W”)
Though a few cosmetic changes to the store have been made, the store still mostly resembles how it looked back in the early 1990s. It is, for the most part, a normal convenience store featuring items you would expect to find in one: some grocery items, candy, coffee, beverages, magazines, etc. The one cool item available there is a Clerks Zippo lighter that I am almost positive is exclusive to the store, as I have not found a website or other store that carries it. I still want to go back and buy one just because!
The store also features a few nods to its history as an iconic film location. There is an old Clerks II promo poster in the front window and a few press items hanging on the wall behind the register, but still is able to retain its primary identity as a common everyday business. There have been some times that I’ve went in where I was the only customer. However, just buying something and going up to that counter gives me the same giddy excitement that I get when I pull up to the place. So many great movie moments have happened on, in front of, and behind that counter that it just feels surreal to be in there.
I’ve never asked any employees any questions related to the movies, as I’m sure they get enough of those inquiries and are probably pretty done with hearing them by now. However, there is a special feeling of satisfaction when you buy something there. You could buy the same blue gatorade there that you’d buy at 7-11, but buying it from America’s most famous convenience store makes drinking that gatorade all the more refreshing.