Open & Shut: 5-20-2008

Published in CSP Daily News

CSP Daily News' ongoing geographic digest ofstoreactivity nationwide

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- CSP Daily News offers another installment of Open & Shut, an occasional geographic roundup of new-store groundbreakings, raze and rebuilds, openings, reopenings, closures and sales from chains small, medium and large. The digest includes primarily smaller, independent marketers and entrepreneurs that don't often make headlines like their larger, more high-profile counterparts. But it also includes some smaller deals and incremental growth and construction among those larger companies.

California

Beginning this week, travelers can once again stop at Roy's Gas [image-nocss] Station, which reopened on Route 66 in Amboy, said The Victorville Daily Press. San Bernardino County boasts the longest uninterrupted stretch of Route 66 in the nation. The station's owner, Albert Okura, who also owns the successful Juan Pollo fast-food chain, purchased the town in 2005 and has been working to renovate and reopen Roy's Gas Station. He also has plans to open a cafe and mini-mart at the same location.

Tirath S. Sahota has purchased a Shell station in Sacramento for $1.375 million, or $392 per square foot. The seller was Equilon Enterprises LLC, said The CoStar Group. Built in 1985 and renovated in 1995, the station includes a car wash and mini mart with a Subway inside. The property measures 3,512 square feet on a 0.65-acre corner lot.

Colorado

In Boulder, Moto Modern Markets, which combined a natural grocery market and an Italian-style cafe at a gas station, has closed after a few months of operation, said The Daily Camera; however, officials for Sinclair Oil Corp., which provided the gasoline for the pumps during Moto's tenure, said it is not gone for good. Emily Lawrence with Sinclair said the site has been for sale. "Our goal is to keep it a Sinclair, and to get it back open," she told the paper. The station could open within a week or two, she added, "if things go according to plan." One year ago, the site went dark and remained vacant for a couple months. Moto Modern Markets founder Michael Marsilio declined comment, but said he would provide more information soon. He brought his natural grocery and café convenience concept to Sinclair, reopened the pumps in July and opened the renovated store in November. Late last year, Marsilio said he had hoped to open about 25 Moto Modern Markets along the Front Range in the next three to five years. Future stores most likely would not be linked to fuel sales, Marsilio said at the time, admitting there was a disconnect between that and his target customers—people who are healthy lifestyles and sustainability.

Athan's Downtown Market has opened in downtown Colorado Springs, formerly home to a flower shop. The tiny c-store sells snacks, drinks, cigars and cigarettes, over-the-counter medicines, envelopes and other items, said The Colorado Springs Gazette. Owner Athan Loukakis also owns State of Mind and Zzing, two shops a few doors from Athan's. As a downtown business owner, he said, he saw the need for a store such as Athan's. "I saw that if I ran out of smokes, there's no place to go," Loukakis said. "If I need any paper towel, toilet paper, just some basic needs, or munchies, some snacks, there's no place to go downtown. So I thought we could fulfill a need downtown by carrying all those items." There's only so much the 325-square-foot store can handle, but Loukakis does have plans for the future, including adding shipping services. "Also," he said, "we're going to start doing lunch. Which translates to Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's, but I call it lunch."

Florida

Four Bay County gas stations supplied by BP have shut their doors in recent months, reported The News Herald. According to the Bay County Property Appraiser's website, Mott Oil Inc., a Bessemer, Ala., company, is listed as the property owner for three of the closed sites. A fourth closed station is owned by Pro Marketing LLC, Troy, Ala. BP said it does not own or operate any of the stations. Two other nearby BP stations also closed about six months ago.

Illinois

Alex and Melissa Rodriguez have opened A&M MiniMart, the first c-store in downtown Joliet in years, reported The Herald News. Along with items such as soda pop and milk, the store sells an assortment of laundry soap, frozen foods and other items. "We sell a lot of pizzas and microwave-style food," he said. Alex and Melissa have seven children who have been getting some retail experience of their own lately. "I've got plenty of help," Rodriguez said.

An Orland Hills developer, Fuller Triangle Inc., has opened a CITGO station and c-store in Robbins. The facility is the first gas station to be built in the village in 25 years, reported The Southtown Star.The only gas station in Roberts, Trimble's Amoco, recently stopped selling gasoline, said The Kankakee Daily Journal. Roberts was the home of the late C.W. Hicks and the headquarters of his Hicksatomic chain of gas stations and propane firms across Illinois and Indiana. Trimble's will remains open, but only as a c-store. Trimble Oil, started in former Hicks outlets by the late Joe Trimble, also closed a station in Sibley; sold one in Fairbury; and gave up its lease at a BP Amoco in Paxton earlier. The Sibley station, D&D Food Shop and BP Amoco, also closed about two weeks earlier. The c-store also closed.

Indiana

Gas prices have climbed, but they haven't stalled Paul Patterson's excitement over the return of A shuttered Vortex Gas Station in Richmond, Ind., said The Palladium-Item. The store, which closed in November 2004, is getting a facelift thanks to Indianapolis businessman Manjit Singh. Singh said the store will be named Quick Stop. Singh said the store, which is his first in Richmond, will be a Sunoco station with a c-store and a car wash. In addition to new fuel tanks, he said construction crews are adding a new canopy, new dispensers, new lighting and a new parking lot. Singh said his company usually opens four to six stores a year in the Indianapolis market. He said the company chose Richmond because it wanted to expand on its success outside of Indianapolis.

Kentucky

A BP location in Fort Thomas, which closed about a year ago, will reopen as a gas station and c-store, Donald Martin, city administrator, told The Community Press & Recorder. He said he is glad to see the site reopen as a gas station. "It gives our residents and people coming into the city...another option to buy gasoline," Martin said. "A city the size of Fort Thomas needs more than two gas stations." The site, originally owned by BP, was recently sold to an independent business owner. It has been vacant for about a year because of a no-competition clause that BP included in the deed to prevent the location from becoming another station. The site sold after the clause was removed.

Massachusetts

Tony Houeiss, who own the Mutual Gas station in Taunton, has opened the 44 Express Convenience Store there. He previously owned the Smart Stop in Taunton. 44 Express is fairly large in comparison to other c-stores in the area. Houeiss said he thinks of it as being more of a "small supermarket." He stocks laundry detergent, motor oil, candy and frozen dinners and offers an ATM. He said he also expects to sell lottery tickets and will add an ice cream stand.

One of the owners of the Potpourri Mall has bought the Mobil station in Northampton for $2.1 million, reported The Republican. According to documents in the Hampshire County Hall of Records, Edmund DeLaurentis Jr. of White Plains, N.Y., bought the property from Exxon Mobil Corp. in late March.

Sam Mousa, who ran two gas stations in Salem, has shuttered the Sunoco station he has run since 1988. He still owns an ExxonMobil station. He closed the Sunoco because of the rent he was paying to Sunoco. He offered to buy the station and operate it independently, but Sunoco was not interested, he told The Eagle Tribune. "They just decided they'd rather shut down the property than give me a break on my rent," Mousa said.

Michigan

The BP gas station in downtown Fowlerville owned by Brighton-based Corrigan Oil Co. will be razed and rebuilt, said The Livingston Daily. Corrigan Construction plans to expand the station 12 pumps running out of three islands. The current station houses four pumps at two islands, where large cracks cover the station's concrete floor. Construction would begin after Labor Day.
When Carl Erickson Sr.'s family-owned Spring Lake CITGO station location, opened in 1957 as a Cities Service station, has closed its doors, reported The Grand Haven Tribune. Erickson, vice president of Tri-City Oil Co., Ferrysburg, which owns the Spring Lake location, said the company's other two stations, in Grand Haven and Ferrysburg, will stay open. "Closing [Spring Lake] is just a business decision," Erickson said, adding that high fuel prices and local competition played a part in the decision. "We were looking at the numbers and the price of gas doesn't help. It raises our inventory costs and sales tax is charged as a percentage. You can go to Coopersville or Grand Rapids and they charge 20 cents a gallon more than us. The Tri-Cities area has been very competitive with gas prices. It's typically cheaper here than in surrounding areas. That obviously doesn't help. The price fluctuates here more than our cost does because of the competition."

New Mexico

Tommy Padilla is building a gas station/c-store on a three-quarter-acre lot in Quemado that will be called Rito Quemado, with a completion date sometime in August, said The Mountain Mail. A possible addition will be a car wash.

Grady's lone gasoline station has been shut down, forcing motorists to drive more than 30 miles to Clovis or San Jon for fillups, reported the Associated Press. Darrel Cook said he reluctantly closed his unstaffed, self-serve station because of vandalism and thefts. He said more than 800 gallons of fuel was stolen and vandals inflicted more than $30,000 in damage to equipment in four incidents spanning a month. Cook said the station has been closed since February 21, when someone stole $6,000 worth of surveillance cameras and destroyed two fuel pumps.

North Dakota

In Stanley, the Quick Stop has a new owner, Randy Jarmin. The location is now called Jarmins Quick Stop, said KXMC-TV.

Ohio

IFR Petroleum Inc. has acquired a gas station in Kent, OH, from Jackie D. Elrod Trust for $700,000, or about $503 per square foot. The one-story, 1,392-square-foot station was built in 2001 and is in the Portage County submarket. IFR Petroleum purchased a business along with the real estate and is doing business as Gem Food Mart, running a station and c-store at this location, said The CoStar Group.

Oklahoma

A $6 million Love's Travel Stops & Country store is under construction in Conneaut, Christina Dukeman, company spokesperson, told The Ashtabula Star-Beacon. "There will be more than 70 truck parking spots," she said. "It will definitely be one of our larger operations."

A new OnCue Expressc-store/gas station to be built in Edmond will encompass 5,129 square feet with 10 gasoline pumps on five aisles under a canopy in front of the building said The Edmond Sun. The facility will feature public art, including sculptures of two 4-foot ravens. The 15.5-foot-tall building is to be two-toned brick with a canopy 21 feet tall at the highest point. Lighting complies with sensitive border standards. One driveway will access the earth-tone "mocha" site. Walk-in restrooms without doors will resemble those of airports with automated amenities inside.

Pennsylvania

An operator of the three Uni-Mart c-stores with gas in Bellefonte said he shut down the businesses in April after several years of losing money, reported The Centre Daily Times. "I tried a lot of ways to keep it open," said Syed Hussain, a principal in the company that operates all three stores. "Every month we have a big loss." He said he and a partner signed a lease agreement with Uni-Marts LLC in September 2005 to operate the three stores. The property is owned by Uni-Marts, but Hussain and a partner operate and manage the three locations through Sans Convenient Stores. The borough has filed a lien against Uni-Marts for six months of unpaid refuse bills and other unpaid bills. Hussain said he has turned over the keys to the stores to the owners of the property. The three stores had been part of a class-action lawsuit against Uni-Marts settled late last year. It alleged Uni-Marts committed fraud by failing to provide critical information in the sale of its stores in 2004 and 2005; 70 stores represented by 40 different owners sought compensation for fraud, negligent misrepresentation and breach of contract. Joe Lach, co-counsel for the buyers, said the suit was resolved after negotiations by all parties. Part of the settlement included monetary compensation. But Hussain said he spent more than $15,000 on the suit and kept losing money after it was settled. He estimated that he and two partners—one backed out about eight months ago—have lost nearly $300,000 since they began operating the Uni-Marts. "Everything is a mess, and the rent is too high," he said.

Two new Turkey Hill Minit Markets being built in Humboldt Station and in Hazle Township will have small restaurants within them, as well as car washes, reported The Standard-Speaker. Erin Dimitriou Smith, a spokesperson for Turkey Hill, said, "Each store will have a 'Real Time Café,' which will serve pizza, burgers, chicken tenders and a large variety of sandwiches and wraps. We will also have the full coffee bar and slushies. There will be 16 gas pumps at Humboldt Station, and 10 at [the other location]."

South Carolina

A company-operated log-cabin-style Sunoco station, a remnant of Hilton Head Island's past, has closed, said The Island Packet. The station closed April 7 and the pumps and underground storage tank have been removed. Sunoco's lease recently ended and the company decided not to renew. The 1.6-acre site is owned by Hilton Head-based APR Enterprises LLC. The station opened in 1977 as the Broad Creek General Store. It became a Starvin' Marvin franchise in 1983 and has passed through other gasoline retail brand names since then.

Tennessee
Thorntons Inc. is building a 3,755-square-foot Thorntons QuickCafe and CornerMarket on the site of Roger's Market and Pardners Bar & Grill in Murfreesbro, said The Daily News Journal. Pardners owner Jerry Greenburg said he leased the building, but the owners decided to sell the property to Thorntons.TexasEddie Gummelt, 82, has been distributing gasoline for six decades, but skyrocketing fuel prices so irked him that he sold his local fuel operations, said The Waco Tribune Herald. He said his age played a role in his decision, but prices did make a difference. "You used to could fill up for $2 or $3," said Gummelt, who became a Texaco distributor after World War II. "When I filled up Friday, it cost $70. That takes the fun out of it. It's absurd." He said he leaves the fuel business with no regrets. He remembers the good old days and tough but friendly competitors, and he won't forget the company he and partners created, Poweram Oil Co. "It was a fun time," said Gummelt, who estimated his company owned 112 stores, stations, hotels and restaurants at its peak. The stores sold Gummelt's gasoline. Scott Sonntag, 31, has bought Gummelt's bulk plant, which has 84,000 gallons of storage capacity. He also acquired Gummelt's transport operations as well as his commercial wholesale accounts with farmers, ranchers and business clients. Sonntag said he made the purchase as a "diversification tool." He owns Santa Fe Express c-stores in Clifton and Valley Mills, and is opening another in Robinson. "This is a challenging business," Sonntag said. "One day you'll have $100,000 in the bank, and the next day you may owe $100,000." He said prices remain volatile—and stressful—as the major oil companies inform him daily by email what he will pay.

Two years after a gas station closed at an intersection in McAllen, Texas, a team of businessmen have opened an On the Run c-store there, said The Monitor. The store is the first of its kind in the Rio Grande Valley, and several more of its type is expected to go up in the area, business owners said. "We wanted a retailer to serve the general public," said Ray Mendez, one of the new venture's owners and a former music store manager. "And this is the best spot in the whole Valley for a [c-store.]" He said the location sat vacant because of a longstanding agreement with ExxonMobil, which supplied fuel to the previous tenant, former owner Glenn Quinn. The agreement allowed Exxon to keep the spot from being turned into another station unless it was an Exxon-friendly tenant. Mendez and a group of investors purchased the site last year and entered into an agreement with ExxonMobil to open the On the Run franchise. They have rights to build more franchises nearby and hope to open several more in coming years. It has a kitchen that serves up tacos and other lunch items. It also has a large coffee bar.

WashingtonConocoPhillips has sold a gas station and c-store to Khan Oil (Washington) LLC, Vancouver, for $1.04 million, according to The Columbian, citing commercial real-estate transactions filed with the Clark County Assessor's Office.
Wisconsin

Roger Jevne is expanding his Handy Mart chain to a fourth location, at the site of the former Lil' Genie Market in Bay City, said The Pierce County Herald. In the first two weeks since he took over the establishment, he has nearly gutted and renovated the inside of the store, plus replaced the gas pumps out front. "We plan to add more and offer quantity pricing," he said. Among the new features are liquor, as Jevne's obtained an alcohol license, and one cooler door will be devoted to chilled wine, he said. A fountain drink center, hot dogs, pizza and breakfast items will be available, as will some lines of produce. Beyond food and beverages, a pay-at-the-pump option has been introduced, access to the state lottery has been arranged, license plate tab renewal is coming, along with fishing and hunting license registration, and customers will find live bait, video rentals and more. All shelving has been replaced, the interior has been repainted and a new checkout counter installed. An automated inventory system is also being added. The 4,500-square-foot c-store's space is slightly larger than his other locations, two of which are in Durand and one in Nelson. Driver Dave's Diner leases the west side of the building and may contribute some food items to be sold in the store.

Ontario

A Listowel gas station has reopened after sitting idle since late last year, said CKNX Radio. The doors were closed at the Listowel and Mount Forest gas stations and several other facilities after former owner, VivaCorp Properties, went into receivership last November. Petro Canada purchased the locations earlier this year along with several others across the province and a Nova Scotia property with the intention of reopening the facilities.