Open & Shut: 8-25-2008

An occasional geographic roundup of new and closed stations, other industry activity

Published in CSP Daily News

An occasional geographic roundup of new and closed stations, other industry activity

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- CSP Daily News offers another semi-regular installment of Open & Shut, a geographic roundup of new-store groundbreakings, raze and rebuilds, openings, reopenings, rebrandings, closures and sales from chains small, medium and large. The digest includes primarily smaller, independent marketers and entrepreneurs that have opened since the last installment but do not often make headlines like their larger, more high-profile counterparts. The roundup also includes locations that have [image-nocss] shut down their fuel dispensers, but remain open as convenience stores.

California

Pommerville Automotive & Gas has rebranded from 76 to Alliance station, said The Lompoc Record. When ConocoPhillips decided to sell off most of its California properties, Don Pommerville was told to either buy the property or Conoco would sell it when his lease was up. This would have happened this November. When Conoco gave the ultimatum, Don jumped through all the financial and environmental hoops to purchase the property his business is on. "Now that we have made changes, people think we are a different business," Pommerville said. "The only thing that has changed is the gas supplier." He added, "Our garage is still a full-service automotive garage."

Pearson Fuels has opened its third E85 station in California. The Chevron station, located in Concord, features a c-store and is the first public E85 station in Northern California, said the Domestic Fuel website.

Connecticut

Tony Randhawa just opened Express Fuels, a $1.5 million gas station in Danbury, his second in three years, reported The News-Times. Randhawa's first station is branded Exxon. He did not want to go into too many details about his Exxon station, but said his long-term contract with a name-brand fuel supplier does not leave him much wiggle room in adjusting prices. So before opening his second shop, Randhawa did some research and opted to have the new station supplied by Alliance Energy. "The gas station business these days is very challenging, but it is still a good business. The convenience store is where you make the money. With just the gas station, you cannot survive," Randhawa said. In addition to owning two liquor stores, wife Gori owned and operated a 7-Eleven store from about 1997 to 2005.

After 30 years in business, Ken Kraft has closed his Shell station, said The Hartford Courant. Kar Kraft Inc. was one of the few locations still doing repairs. Kraft called the decision a tough one, but said rising fuel prices, greater competition and increasingly restrictive corporate requirements had made it more and more difficult to cover his costs. "This kind of establishment, what the oil companies call a 'conventional station' is a dinosaur," he said. "We're at the end of an era, one-shot guys like myself." Gas will still be sold at the station, purchased by a New York-based oil distribution company last summer, but the service bays will close. Kraft hopes some customers will follow him to R&M Auto Services, where he will continue working as a service manager.

Florida

New management has reopened the former Chevron c-store in Colony Plaza Shopping Center in The Villages, said The Villages Daily Sun. Unforeseen circumstances with a secondary management group forced the closure of the Chevron-branded station a couple months ago, said Paul Resop, the building's owner. Instead of reopening as Chevron, Resop said, the primary management operator opted to reopen the station under the Shell gasoline brand. "Shell in this area is, I think, a more recognized brand," Resop said about the decision to rebrand the station.

Indiana

In early August, Philip Sussman of Oppenheim Consulting Services-Catalyst Resource Group offered a business and land in Waterloo, Dekalb County, for sale. The 12-acre, Interstate 69 truckstop and restaurant offers a turnaround opportunity for a prospective purchaser to benefit from increased traffic and sales volumes upon completion of a recently permitted Flying J.

Iowa

Platteville's Business U.S. 151 East Corridor has its first gas station, according to The Telegraph Herald. Badger State Ethanol opened for business last week. The business sells only ethanol blends of E-10, E-25 and E-85.

Kentucky

Owners Julie and David Conner anticipate re-opening the Conner 's Quick Stop in Corbin in late August after the store suffered from a major fire Aug. 5, 2007, reported The Times-Tribune. It will continue to offer a restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner in addition to its convenience merchandise. The exterior is a combination of flagstone and stucco. In addition to a spacious interior, there is an abundance of outside deck seating. The couple hopes to have entertainment during some early evenings.

Maine

R.H. Foster Energy of Bangor, Maine, is building five c-stores around the state, including one in Randolph and one in Augusta, reported The Kennebec Journal. In Augusta, the company has submitted a preliminary application seeking a major-development permit from the city to build a 6,000-square-foot c-store, with a bank branch inside, 12 fueling pumps, two large-truck diesel pumps and a two-bay car wash. The Randolph store would have four twin pumps. The plan calls for the store to be placed where a three-story building, an old movie theater, used to be, said the report. R.H. Foster also wants stores in Hermon, Old Town and Lincoln.

Michigan

High gas prices and competition are forcing Earl Brown and his son, Joe, to close their northwest Detroit BP station after 36 years, reported The Michigan Citizen. According to Joe, over the last several years, gasoline has gone up from $17,000 per load to around $40,000 per load. The 8 Mile and Livernois BP & Food Shoppe was sold at auction in late July.

Minnesota

A new Sterling Drug Store opened in Owatonna in late July, reported The Austin Daily Herald. Sam Ewing, vice president of operations for Astrup Drug Inc., described it as a new concept in the Austin-based company's enterprises. "We've had a store in Owatonna for over 30 years," Ewing said, "This one is 13,000 square-feet and combines a Shell gas station with a convenience store, as well as pharmacy and gifts." Pharmacy customers will receive a 15 cents-per-gallon discount on gas purchased between 1 and 7 p.m. Astrup Drug Inc. opened a similar concept store at Hastings a year ago which has been successful, according to Ewing. "We've looked at new ways to attract pharmacy customers and this is one of them," Ewing said. "The whole key is convenience. The Shell gas service has new technology and there's drive-through service for pharmacy customers." Astrup Drug operates 10 stores, including two in Austin.

Missouri

A Liberty gas station owner woke up Friday morning and decided to sell gas all day for $1.98, he told KCTV5 News. The owner of a Valero gas station in Liberty, Milton Grin said he was closing the business he has owned for two years and was getting into the electric car business. He had three electric cars on display near his gasoline pumps. "We were going to close, and we thought it would be a good thing for everybody, and we want to promote the electric car business," he said.

Nebraska

Bernie Archer and her husband, Chris, have remodeled the former Turning Point c-store and gas station in Columbus, said The Columbus Telegram. Chris owns Archer's Home Improvement and was able to renovate the store. After 10 years with Kum & Go, the Archers decided to open their own c-store and station. "I liked what I did there," Bernie said. "I thought [about owning a store] for several years and decided I'd like to do it. It's a big challenge. I like challenges, and this is one of the biggest." On top of a 12-station fueling center, Blvd. Express offers a full line of food and beverages, including pizza, sandwiches, candy, fountain pop, hard liquor and beer. Coming soon is the Blvd. Blast, a slushee-like drink.

New Hampshire

John Ragonese has opened Four Seasons Express, a modern c-store in Manchester, said The New Hampshire Union Leader. It has a glass-paneled facade, gasoline pumps, coffee bar and security cameras. It offers chips, soda, energy drinks and cigarettes. A kitchen will open in a few months.

New Jersey

A new Wawa is nearing completion in Vineland, N.J., said The Vineland Daily Journal. Crews working on the supersized c-store/gas station expect to have the job complete in time for an October opening, according to a Wawa spokesperson. The store is designed to blend in with the look of the Elwyn training school facilities behind the property; it includes a staggered wall. The new Wawa, with its eight-pump fuel island, will replace an existing company location directly across the street.

New York

The Sunoco gas station in the village of Camillus is being prepped for a spring re-opening, village code enforcer John Williams told Eagle Newspapers. The project is in the preliminary stages, Williams said, but "it looks positive that they're going to reopen the station in early spring." He said the station will include fuel pumps and a small c-store as it did before closing about three years ago. The physical footprint of the station and the structure onsite will remain the same, he added.

A newly remodeled Kwikfill opened in mid-July in Endwell, according to a report by News Channel 34-TV. It offers both full and self-service gas pumps.

North Dakota

In late July, Kum & Go LC closed its West Fargo c-store and gas station, reported The Forum. The chain announced in May that it planned to sell two of its North Dakota locations. The other was in Bismarck.

Pennsylvania

Penn State Altoona's Common Grounds, formerly a coffee shop, has been transformed into a new campus c-store, the school's newspaper said. The store, located in the Slep Student Center, will feature a variety of products including school supplies, health and beauty products, cough and cold medicine, snack items such as candy and chips, dairy products, bottled beverages, frozen products, microwavable meals, sandwiches, coffee, pastries and more.

A full-service Exxon station in Hollidaysburg, in business since 1954, has shut down its dispensers, reported WJAC-TV. The garage and petroleum pumps will remain open for service. Owner Wayne Carney said there is no profit to begin with in full-service gasoline, and now he was competing against stations offering discounts and perks. He added that credit-card fees were too high.

Barto Ferrara and his son, Bart, are undertaking a major expansion at the CITGO Servicenter they own and operate in Monessen. "We are building a convenience store," Bart told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "It's a matter of keeping the playing field level. We had to do something to ensure our existence here." Barto, who has been in the gasoline dealership business for 57 years, added, "The number of independent stations is dwindling in our area. Most of the stations are company-owned and they are putting the little guys out of business. [The c-store] will complement and strengthen our gasoline and service [tires and repairs] business. It was a logical move." Bart said the store will feature such traditional staples as milk, bread, snacks and pop. The addition also will mean "discounts, savings and specials" for customers. The Ferraras are hoping to open the store around Labor Day, sometime in September.

South Dakota

Baltic's only gas station is back to selling fuel after a hiatus, said The Baltic Beacon. The K-Spot stopped selling gasoline in July. Owner Jeff Knopf would not say why the station ceased its fuel sales. "It was an uncontrolled situation," he said. "But we're happy to be up and going again. It was difficult on us and it was difficult for the people in town as well."

Texas

Logansport Food Mart in Nacogdoches has been in business, and independently owned, for 20 years. For the first time in those two decades, the Sands family has had to put paper bags over the pump nozzles and stop selling gasoline, said KLTV. Now the business will depend on profits from food sales and food from a hot grill. Lisa Sands said the profits from gasoline sales "are not worth it." At the same time, Kroger opened up its fuel station there.

Vermont

Lin Buck has shut down her Pownal Village Mart fuel dispensers, said The Bennington Banner. The market has been selling gasoline for longer than the 22 years Buck has had the store. She said she no longer offers gasoline because her 22-year-old pumps couldn't work with the E10 her supplier in New York now sells E10 under a federal mandate. To upgrade would cost her about $100,000, she said. Her only other option would be to purchase her fuel from Canada, Buck said, but it would cost too much to transport. "I'd never recover the investment," she said. She said larger stations can more quickly recover their investment because they have much higher volumes than her store. "The compliance is the same whether you're little or big," she said. "We expect to survive. We don't foresee closing the store," Buck said. She said that neither the EPA nor CITGO has offered to help her upgrade. She said she was still looking into ways she might be able to reopen the pumps. "I'm still on the fence," she said. "I'm waiting to see what happens."
Washington

Gateway Gas & Deli opened its doors in Snoqualmie in mid-July. The Shell station has a ski lodge feel, reported The Snoqualmie Valley Record, complete with a freestanding fireplace, which owners Brad and Jennifer Oberlander plan to fire up in the winter. The station is one of the few local businesses where drivers can fill up their tanks with biodiesel and E85. In addition to gasoline, the station serves a variety of food and beverage options. Lunch and dinner options include sandwiches, pizza, and fried chicken. Breakfast items such as cinnamon rolls, breakfast burritos and biscuits and gravy are also available.

Alberta

Roadking Travel Centres Inc. said in late July that it closed the sale of its Calgary Roadking Travel Center effective July 15. The transaction resulted in net proceeds to the corporation of approximately $9.8 million. With the completion of this transaction, the corporation has ceased conducting business as an owner and operator of travel centers and will engage in the pursuit of alternate business opportunities. Net proceeds from the transaction will be used to pay out remaining business obligations, inclusive of income tax, the remaining financial debts ongoing business expenses outstanding as a result of continuing operations until closing. The corporation will make available a portion of the remaining cash position to its shareholders and use the balance of the net proceeds to pursue and invest in new strategic business opportunities.

Nova Scotia

Canadian Tire is taking over Irving Oil stations in Dartmouth and Bible Hill, Irving spokesperson Jennifer Parker told The Chronicle Herald. Irving will still own the sites, but will lease them to Canadian Tire. "We will have a revenue-sharing agreement and Irving Oil will continue to supply all fuel products to the sites," Parker said. Canadian Tire now leases and operates seven Irving-owned stations in Nova Scotia as part of an ongoing partnership that began in October 2003. It was announced then that Canadian Tire would lease and rebrand 16 Irving stations in Atlantic Canada. Since then, Canadian Tire has done the same with several other Irving stations in the region. The last time was in 2005, when Canadian Tire took over two of Irving's New Brunswick sites.