VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- At first sight, a vacant piece of land on Bridge Street in Visalia doesn't show much promise.But a Northern California computer engineer plans to build a store in Visalia the likes of which have never been seen before in the Central Valley.
"Everything will be fully automated, and there will be no human involvement end to end," said Aamir Farooqui.
Action News spoke to Farooqui via Skype about his concept for an automated, cashier-less convenience store at a site on Bridge Street and Sequoia Avenue.
Some people may be familiar with Amazon Go, the high-tech, checkout-free stores in big cities like San Francisco. But Farooqui says his store, called FrenziVendi, will be more accessible to everyone. They'll sell a variety of foods and drinks from vending machines.
Customers can download the store app and then buy a gift card to make their purchases, or just buy a gift card without downloading the app.
Farooqui will hire two people to keep the machines stocked with fresh products. He will also hire another five to ten people to handle the technical side of store operations."I came up with this idea why not build something automated where I don't need any workers to work on the store," he said. "Because it's very difficult in these days for small businesses to pay high paying (wages), $15 an hour to a worker, and then make some profit."
Farooqui sees another benefit--with no cash transactions and a bar code needed to buy items, there's less risk of robbery or employee theft.
"I think people need to see something different here," said Tyrone Yancy, manager of the Christian thrift store south of the site. He thinks the store will benefit businesses and the neighborhood. "I think it needs kind of like a facelift," Yancy said. "I think it needs new business. And we welcome it, we're glad to see it come."
Last month, the Visalia planning commission unanimously approved a conditional use permit for FrenziVendi, meaning the little lot could soon be the talk of the town, if not the entire Valley. Farooqui says they haven't determined whether they'll accept EBT as a form of payment yet.
They will not sell alcohol or cigarettes. He hopes to open this store by next spring.
Visalia could be home to Valley's first cashierless convenience store