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Ayra's in Burlington

Akil Ajmeri, poses with his daughters Ayra, right, and Ayman in front of the newest Ayra's location at 500 E. State St., Burlington. 

BURLINGTON — It’s a fairly long commute for Akil Ajmeri to go from his home in Caledonia to his newest Ayra’s location, 500 E. State St., Burlington.

“I come every day, personally,” said Ajmeri. “I put my heart and soul into (the station) until it’s up and running.”

Burlington is Ajmeri’s eighth Ayra’s location and the first one west of Interstate 94. But Ajmeri said it won’t be the last — he’s looking into more locations in the Burlington area and is open to other areas on the west side of the county as well.

“Wherever there’s good growth,” he said.

‘This place will not look the same’

The first Ayra’s liquor store opened in Caledonia in 2004 and the first gas station opened in 2007. Since then, the brand has spread to Racine, Mount Pleasant, Kenosha and now Burlington. The baby girl the store was named after is now 15 years old.

(Her younger sister, Ayman, has a Subway in Oak Creek named after her.)

Ajmeri said he was drawn to the Burlington location because of the city itself.

“I always liked the City of Burlington. It’s my kind of area — I like the countryside,” said Ajmeri. “It’s easy to work with smaller cities and towns.”

The Burlington City Council approved Ajmeri’s liquor license application at Tuesday’s meeting, but it’ll still be some time before the store is fully operational.

Ajmeri and BP plan on investing about $500,000 to renovate the station, which once was a Mobil and years ago a J&L.

The renovations will include all new gas tanks, newer pumps and many of the features Ayra’s is known for — an assortment of beer, liquor and a walk-in cigar humidor. They’ll also serve an assortment of hot food such as tamales, pizza, hot dogs and croissants.

Ajmeri plans on gutting and redoing the interior of the building. The plan is to reopen in either late October or early November.

“This place will not look the same,” he said. “I want to do something good for Burlington because it’s appreciated.”

Gas will still be available except for when the tanks and pumps are changed out in mid- to late September.

When everything is up and running, the station will be open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. With Highways 142, E (the former Highway 11) and W all not far from Arya’s Burlington location at State and Main streets, he’s optimistic about this move for his business.

It helps that, as always, he has the support of his family and colleagues behind him.

“The reason of my success is my family and my team working together,” said Ajmeri.

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Christina Lieffring covers the Burlington area and the Village of Caledonia. Before moving to Racine, she lived in Nebraska, Beijing, Chicago and grew up in Kansas City.

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