Open & Shut: 10-13-2008

Geographic roundup of station, store, truckstop activity

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- CSP Daily News offers another semi-regular installment of Open & Shut, a roundup of many of the ordinarily unsung new-store groundbreakings, raze and rebuilds, openings, reopenings, rebrandings, closures and sales announced around the country by chains small, medium and large.


The CITGO Wildcat Station in Sulphur Springs is now under the management of new owners Scott and April Conger, said The Batesville Daily Guard. The station offers a new tri-color, foam laser car wash and Rain-X wax. Inside, [image-nocss] customers will find a line of grocery items, as well as pizza, and a large deli. It also carries a line of homemade fried pies from The Ozark Kitchen in Cave City. The station sells hunting and fishing licenses and is a game check station for the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission.

Murphy Express opened its doors and fuel pumps in Tontitown in late September, said KFSM-TV.


Japanese c-store chain Famima!! recently opened a roadside location in Arcadia. The store is one of three new Famima!! locations recently opened in the Los Angeles and Orange county areas, including stores in Lakewood and Fountain Valley. Famima!! now operates 13 stores in the United States, all in Southern California, reported The Pasadena Star-News.


The new $3 million Lakewood Walk Chevron, developed by Schroeder-Manatee Ranch Inc. in Lakewood Ranch and slated to open this month, will be a full-service gas station with a c-store, pizza and sandwich shop and car wash, owner Alan Brooks told The Bradenton Herald. "We're also trying to make it as 'green' as possible," he said, noting the car wash will use recycled water, and that the 4,100-sq.-ft. building will have"solar tubes" that funnel natural light inside. Bathroom faucets and toilets will operate on remote sensors to save water and maintain a high standard of cleanliness, he said.

After 35 years in business, the Destin Tom Thumb c-store closed in September, said The Destin Log. The Mattie Kelly Trust owns the land and has chosen not to renew the lease. Former Councilor Cyron Marler said the Tom Thumb had been grandfathered in under Destin's zoning code, so if the store closes, the site would eventually revert to the area's regular residential zoning.

The Indian River County Commission agreed in mid-September to buy Mark's Mobil Service for $1.65 million to expand the intersection, said Mark Hall has owned the full-service business since 1991 and the property since 2002.


Unity Biofuels, a station dedicated to dispensing ethanol opened in early October in Mount Pleasant, reported The Hawkeye. Outfitted with three 24-hour pay-at-the-pump blender pumps, it offers four blends of ethanol: E10, E20, E30 and E85, as well as biodiesel. Using 98% denatured ethanol and unleaded gasoline, the pumps dispense the consumer's selection, said manager Jason Egli, who, along with Tom Fullenkamp, Paul Von Tersch and Dave Reiff, opened a similar station in Olds on September 5. The cost of each blend varies based on the price of E10. Typically, E20 will run 15 to 20 cents cheaper than E10, E30 between 20 and 30 cents less than E10 and E85 will be priced 70 cents to $1 lower than E10. Unity Biofuels earns the blender credit or Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, established in 2004 to provide an incentive to blend ethanol. Earning up to 51 cents per gallon, it helps keep costs at the pump lower. Egli said a c-store and restaurant are also in the works, slated for summer 2009.


Ken Suter, who has been in the business for about 45 years and owns seven gas stations in the Kansas City area, has purchased a former Phillips 66 station in Louisburg. He told The Louisburg Herald that the station/c-store will operate under the name Dominator Fuels, his private-label brand. He said he plans to have the business up and running within about 30 days. His grandson Keith will serve as store supervisor.


The Maine Turnpike is losing two service plazas, but a larger service plaza will be opening to take their place, reported WCSH-TV. The southbound service plaza in Lewiston and the northbound service plaza in Litchfield are scheduled to close by October 20; parking lots and portable toilets will remain open at both sites until the new service plaza is ready in mid-November. A new service plaza in West Gardiner is scheduled to open by November 17, and feature a greater selection of restaurant and service options, including biodiesel.


Kevin Bahnam, owner of USA 2 GO c-stores in New Hudson and Commerce Township, is erecting a gas station, car wash and strip mall with space for a c-store and four other small tenants northeast of Howell, reported The Daily Press & Argus. He said he hopes construction will be wrapped up early next year. Included in the plan are a 7,000-sq.-ft. station/c-store, a 120-foot-long car wash; and 10 pumps that could fill up to 20 cars at a time.


The Deerfield Travel Center in Steele was put on the market in September by The Oppenheim Group. Built in 2004 on about 10 acres, it has a 6,100-sq.-ft. primary building; c-store; two dine-in QSRs (Subway and Chester's); a truckers' store, lounge, showers, truck wash, scales and garage; an arcade; laundry facilities; and 150 paved parking spaces.


A Shell station/c-store store in Las Vegas sold for $1.99 million in a transaction between two private parties in mid-September, said The CoStar Group. The business was also acquired for an additional $405,000. The 3,109-sq.-ft. c-store was built in 1996 in the North Las Vegas submarket. Formerly a Zak's Mini Mart, the new owner now operates it as Green Valley Grocery. The property was never on the market; the sale was a direct negotiation between the buyer and the seller.

New Hampshire

A Burlington, Mass., businessman bid $805,000 for the former Premium Gas station property in Manchester at a foreclosure auction in mid-September, said The Union Leader. Dean Ghanem said he plans to set up a business partnership with his cousin, Jason Ghanem. They plan to operate a gas station/c-store on the 0.36-acre property. There were eight registered bidders for the auction. One, Telly Mahmaud, owner of Ocean View Restaurant in Hampton Beach, said the price was too high. He said he expected it to go between $400,000 and $500,000 and did not participate when bidding started a $500,000. Former owner Muneer Alam defaulted on an $825,000 mortgage from River Bank. Bidders at the auction had to compete against the bank.

New York

A Wilson Farms store in Niagara Falls will close October 17, said The Niagara Gazette. The chain will also be closing a store in Liverpool. President and CEO Paul Nanula said the store is no longer capable of turning a profit. There are no plans to close any other locations in Western New York. "While we find the community surrounding thestore to be a great place in general, the building itself is just not conducive for Wilson Farms to be successful," he said. "The facility is not capable to accommodate the daily functions of a [c-store] of our size without a considerable amount of profit loss and therefore the decision was made to close thelocation. We have 192 stores, and the natural process is to continually evaluate the long-term viability of all locations. Our plans are to expand the number of locations, as well as invest $15 million to $20 million in improvements over the next three to five years." The decision to close the store was made following a performance evaluation; it fell outside the "acceptable criteria" for staying open, and the lease was expiring.

The BP station in Sleepy Hollow has a new business model. The station has done away with its repair business and opened a c-store, said Peter Castro, the owner, said it has gotten harder to run a profitable repair garage as automobiles improve and require fewer repairs. The advent of leasing also hurts repair garages, he said, because drivers are less likely to make repairs on cars they don't own. The store will continue to sell gasoline. Castro, who is turning the station over to his son, said the store is called Broadway Blitz.

In late September, Steve Walter sold his Sunoco station to Neil Durfey, who will call it Neil's Five Corners Automotive, said The Tonawanda News. It had been in the Walter family since 1957. Steve Walter took over in 1978.

Monroe Convenience has opened in Rochester, said The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. Besides groceries and newspapers, the store offers hot and cold subs and other ready-to-eat foods, such as wings and chicken fingers, said owner Mustafa Almansuri of Henrietta. Almansuri, a native of Iraq, works as a quality assurance engineer at Xerox Corp. He managed a local c-store for six years while attending college, he said, and previously worked as a translator for the U.S. military.

North Dakota

The Belden Stop c-store recently opened in Belden, reported The Minot Daily News. It does not offer gasoline.


The former Horizon Travel Plaza in Bartlett has sold for $1.6 million to New Century Properties and Investment LLC. The seller is Ralph E. Watkins, who paid $1.9 million for the property in January 2005. The 4,268-sq.-ft. location, now called Star 24, was built in 2004 and sits on 1.16 acres New Century financed the purchase with a $1.4 million loan from BankTennessee, said The Daily News Online & Chandler Reports.


Pak-A-Sak, Amarillo, recently opened its 13th location with a brand new design from Paragon Solutions. It has a 5,000-sq.-ft. store with drive-thru window, two automatic car washes and four manual bay car washes.

Brian Hatchett and Dr. Jerry Ted Roberts of Roberts & Hatchett Properties said The Gateway Travel Plaza will open on October 15. The Kilgore News Herald reported that the design features a western motif; murals of horses and riders lead visually through the plaza. There is an electric pony for kids and the walls are lined with antiques. A rustic furniture line will be for sale at the plaza. It features a 24-hour Wendy's with full-size dining room, Shell gasoline with mini-mart featuring groceries, beer, wine and more and Bank Texas branch. The 14,000-sq.-ft. facility is laid out like one large business, where customers can flow from the c-store to the bank and then to Wendy's without going outside. The drive-through is like a horseshoe: "you drive in from the left of the store and circle to the right so you don't have to drive all the way around the building," said Hatchett. "If you like the idea of doing everything from the pumps, we are offering a delivery system for Bank Texas right at the pumps where you can do all your banking without going inside while your gas pumps."


Uppy's reopened its Midlothian Minute Mart in mid-September after an extensive two-month renovation, reported The Midlothian Exchange. "The only thing from the original store is the walls," said Terry Johnson, director of marketing and purchasing. "We took the ceiling out and the roof out because it wasn't any good and [took out] everything inside; so [we] basically started all over again." Uppy's, a division of Southside Oil, has transformed the interior of the c-store known for its leaky roof. "It was definitely a store that was worn out," he said. "Uppy's has owned it for two years with the idea of updating it all along because it really needed it." The re-opened BP station is participating in Ukrop's/Uppy's fuelperks! program. Inside, the foodservice and soda fountain will be topped off with a semi-circular hot beverage island with hot coffee and cappuccino. "The coffee presence is going to be a lot better for the morning crowd. We'll have more flavors," he added. An addition to the store, besides public restrooms, is a walk-in beer cooler with a taller ceiling.


Smitty's Paradise, a new gas station/c-store in West Richland, will hold its grand opening this week. The station and the store have been designed around a tropical theme. The station also has a car wash and customers purchasing a wash can get a discount of up to 10 cents a gallon on gasoline, said The Mid Columbia Tri City Herald.

Lonnie Steinmetz told The Columbia Basin Herald that he is trying to bring back the nostalgic feel of the 1950s and 1960s with the look of his new full-service gas station in Moses Lake. With the new remodel, there's silver diamond plating on the building and gas pumps. Red and gray paint also accent the business. He plans to have music from the 1950s and 1960s piped out to the pumps for customers to listen to, he said. That's when it was the norm for an attendant to check a customer's car oil level and tire pressure during a gas fill-up, Steinmetz said. "It's just an old-school gas station," he added. The new location will be mainly devoted to vehicle maintenance and selling regular and super unleaded gas.

West Virginia

Frosty's Chevron in Charleston, a full-service gas station, has closed, reported The State Journal. Owner Marvin Gray said the high price of fuel has nothing to do with his decision to retire. He is "just tired." He told the paper, "I'm putting in 12, 14, 16 hours a day, six days a week, and I always thought when I was a young man, the older you get the less you have to work."


Mega Management Inc., a division of Consumers Cooperative Association, is in the process of finalizing plans for its next Mega Express store, in Lake Hallie. General manager Rick Lambrecht told The Bottom Line that the $1.7 million project includes construction of the organization's 12th gas station/c-store in the Eau Claire-Chippewa Falls market. The new Mega Express (formerly known as Mega Marts) will feature a northwoods theme offering a full liquor and beer department, a Department of Natural Resources registration station and a kitchen where Grandma Thea's pies will be baked. It will also have a small dog park for travelers. EEC LLC, the real-estate division of Mega Management, has also finalized the purchase of a 40-acre parcel north of an existing Mega Express in Eau Claire. "We wanted this parcel for our property portfolio, especially if we decide to expand or rebuild our Mega Express location there, which is our fastest-growing c-store," said Lambrecht. "We also made this acquisition as a defensive move so that one of our competitors did not come in and build another store in that area."

Troy's Gas & Grub is the new name of the former Independence BP c-store in Independence, said The La Crosse Tribune.