Open & Shut: 5-26-2009

Another state roundup of c-store, gas station, truckstop openings, closings, sales

Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- CSP Daily News offers this update on a few of the many new-store groundbreakings, raze and rebuilds, openings, reopenings, rebrandings, closures and sales announced around the country by chains small, medium and large, which have not otherwise been reported on a day-to-day basis.

CSP routinely reports on selloffs and purchases within the convenience-retail world and has collected a significant database on industry transactions. These stores will join the other locations included on CSP's M&A Tracker interactive map, found at[image-nocss] mnatracker. (Click here for more details.)


Santa Barbara County officials have given MK gas station owner Rick Ketola such a hard time, he told The Taft Independent, and made his efforts to comply with new state and county air pollution regulations so difficult and costly that he has decided to close the only station that serves the rural Eastern Santa Barbara County Cuyama Valley. "They don't support small businesses," said Ketola in early April. He said his station pumps less than 52,000 gallons of gasoline a year. "We are not making any money, not at 52,000 gallons a year," he said. He said since he pumps less than 100,000 gallons of gas a year, he is exempt from the new regulations and that county regulators are ignoring his claims. He also said he has already spent more than $35,000 to get the station up to code when he purchased it a few years ago. The state is requiring Ketola to install newer equipment and pumps that would cost as much as $150,000 or more.

A c-store and gas station near Chapmantown reopened in mid-April, said KHSL-TV. The Valero station off of Highway 32 was closed for two weeks while the owner was evicted. Three brothers are now running the business. New owner Sam Sayegh said that besides the c-store and gasoline pumps, he will sell propane gas, and the property's car wash will be back up and running.

Norm's Service station in Julian has been purchased by the owner of two other gas stations in Santa Ysabel and Ramona who will do the state-mandated vapor recovery upgrades to the Julian station's fueling system, said The San Diego Union Tribune. The original owners said the upgrades were too expensive to allow it to remain a viable business. Owners Cheryl and Jennifer DeWitt said the upgrades would cost them as much as $100,000 over the next few years, a figure the small business couldn't absorb. Norm's has been a family operation since Milene and Norman Cozens built it in the late 1940s. The DeWitts bought the station from their parents 17 years ago. The new owner is Victor Daniel. Jennifer DeWitt said the new owner plans on closing the automobile repair part of the businesses but will remodel the c-store.


The Savannah Stop opened in Lewes in min-March, reported The Cape Gazette. "We're open again and we're here," said Karen Gibbons, owner. The store opened March 13. Gibbons said she decided to reopen the gas station-convenience store, which closed in December 2007, because the location works. Gibbons said the store's Sunoco gasoline is available around-the-clock and she has a pending application to sell Delaware Lottery tickets. She also plans to sell fried chicken, which would be available for early morning takeout. The store also has tables for those who prefer to eat-in.


Atlanta-based RaceTrac Petroleum Inc. plans to build a 24-pump high-volume gas station in DeLand, according to The West Volusia Beacon. The company also plans to build a c-store with fuel just north of Orange City.

A Palm Beach Shell gas station and c-store, a 12-year-old business, closed in mid-April, said The Palm Beach Daily News. The Testa family, the property's owners, wants to demolish the station adjacent to their restaurant and put up a four-story complex containing shops, condos and an underground parking garage.

A decades-old Shell gas station in Palmetto closed in late March. "The reason we're closing is economics. The economy has finally crunched down to everybody, and we're losing our lease," manager Wesley Foust told WWSB-TV. "They are a tight-knit community, same people everyday. You know their cigarette brands, you know their drink brands, and they're going to miss us as much as we're going to miss them. If we could stay we would, but the economy doesn't allow us to do that," said clerk Marlene Kervin. The property was for sale for $900,000. If a new owner does come forward it will have to remain a Shell station because of a 15-year lease.


Mango Mart in Molokai closed its doors in early April, according to The Molokai Dispatch. The c-store, which sold food and household goods in bulk, closed as a result of one of the owners, who lives in Oregon, being ill, according to the shop's former general manager Karen Buhr. Mango Mart, which also provided a DVD rental service, employed five full-time workers and five part-time workers at the time of its closing. The shop donated $473 worth of unsold groceries to the Molokai Women's Shelter. Unsold DVDs were donated to the Molokai Women's Shelter, the Molokai Youth Center and Molokai General Hospital.


The RC Convenient Spirit in South Elgin opened in early May, reported The Daily Herald. The 2,600-sq.-ft. c-store will carry liquor as well as convenience goods.


A gas station has opened in Centerton reopened in early April, in an area that has not had a c-store since last year, according to The Reporter-Times. The station is a Marathon under new management and ownership. Co-owners Ali Abbas and Alex Moore bought the property at a sheriff's sale in October and began the $150,000 site cleanup, remodeling and rebranding process. The station has eight gasoline pumps, four diesel pumps and a kerosene pump. The Subway and fried chicken are being replaced by Piccadilly Circus Pizza and subs. The store offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. The store will now offer money grams and money transfers, and it may have a Redbox for DVD rentals. The store will cash payroll checks and offer Hoosier Lottery, scratchoffs and pull tabs. They are waiting on a beer and wine license. Abbas and Moore also have four other locations in Indianapolis, some of which are Sunocos.

A new Crystal Flash opened in Noblesville in early May, said The Indianapolis Star. The 3,400-sq.-ft. will offer a variety of hot and cold beverages, including upgraded Crystal Cafe coffee, Caribbean Creme and Icee frozen beverages. In addition, this location will offer Charlie and Barney's chili and chili dogs. Fuels include E10 and biodiesel.


Oklahoma City-based Braum's is opening a new ice cream and dairy c-store location in Wichita, said The Wichita Eagle. It is around the corner from another Braum's, which is expected to close.

A recent campaign by theKansas Sampler Foundationto help the Dexter Mini-Mart stay open has prompted an outpouring of support across the state, reported The Wichita Eagle. More than 350 people have either gone to the mini-mart, nicknamed Crabby Patty's, to spend $5 or sent cash and notes encouraging the owner, Patty Hafenstein, to stay open. The store had been closed for several months when Bruce and Patty Hafenstein reopened the c-store/grill and deli/bait shop at the end of 2006. Since then, high fuel prices and utilities, volume requirements, low population and a few other factors have made it challenging to be successful. The store serves breakfast, lunch, and supper in addition to offering fuel, groceries, and some bait and tackle.

Wichita entrepreneur Kulwinder Jaswal's company began work in mid-April on an independent c-store and gas station near McLean. It is scheduled to open by the end of May, said The Wichita Eagle. Jaswal said he purchased the location two years ago. It's an old QuikTrip site that's been the home of a liquor store and a doughnut shop in recent years. Jaswal manages a Wichita Petro America Quick Mart. He has been restrained by a covenant signed with QT that prohibits gas and c-store sales in the building for 10 years. That deal expires this spring. The site will have four pumps and will offer ethanol blends.


Don's Windmill Truck Stop in Dimondale is closing down, reported The Lansing State Journal. Its restaurant and diesel fuel island are now closed. The c-store and gas station are expected to remain open through the end of May. "The trucking industry has changed over the years," general manager Daniel Millisor said. "There's more competition and lower margins." Road repairs on nearby interstates lead to exit closures, making it difficult for trucks to get to the truckstop. Also, Michigan's economy has affected business. "People are not going to restaurants as much as they used to," Millisor said. He doesn't see that changing anytime soon. "Nobody knows what's going to happen," he said. "Nothing's going positive for us so we can't survive." But even though closing the door on a 54-year-old family business is hard, Millisor also said it will be something of a relief. "It's not very rewarding working for something that's failing," he said. "We've been suffering for years."


Shawn and Michele Mahowald have added the Petro Pete's c-store and gas station to their business holdings, which include Highway 71 South Mini-Storage and Izzy's Machine & Welding, said The Park Rapids Enterprise. Shawn, who has been doing work at the station for the past decade, learned the enterprise was about to be up for sale last fall. They decided it was a prudent investment. The business received partial funding through the Minnesota Community Development Corp. "It happened quickly," Michele said of the three-week purchase transaction in April. The Mahowalds purchased the business from Bill Emison, whose father bought the station in 1992. The Emisons owned several c-stores in the Twin Cities area. The building was remodeled in 1997 to accommodate the changing market. Petro Pete's is a full-line c-store, offering gasoline and diesel. Popcorn is free, as is coffee with a fill. It sells lottery tickets and has an ATM. Plans call for adding Alligator Ice. The business has customer incentives, including gasoline punch cards and soon-to-be-available gasoline coupons, offering three cents off per gallon.

Happy Dan's in North Mankato closed its doors in mid-April, reported KEYC-TV. It was owned by Twin Cities Stores Inc. The company's facilities manager said the station and c-store closed because of tough economic times and a dispute with its fuel supplier, Marathon. He said the company is not sure when or if it will be able to reopen the store, but the hope is to reopen as soon as possible.


An ARCO gas station and c-store in Carson City found the doors locked and the fuel pumps turned off in early April. Signs on the door said the business was "Closed for Inventory Count." A person contacted by phone at the station could not release any details other than the station was closed due to an ownership change and would reopen sometime in the future, reported The Nevada Appeal.

North Carolina

The Fairway One Stop in downtown Winston-Salem is back. It was destroyed by a fire in February 2004, said The Winston-Salem Journal. Since then, brothers John and David Chang, the owners of JP&D Financial, a c-store chain based in Greensboro, have been trying to reopen. JP&D, which has 17 stores in the Triad, builds and leases its stores. JP&D also recently opened a Fairway One Stop store in Winston-Salem. In the fall, the chain plans to add Kimono Japanese Express restaurants inside two Fairway One Stops. John Chang said that several more stores are planned for the Triad this year and that his company is looking at sites to open a standalone Kimono restaurant in northern Winston-Salem. He said that they can get good deals on real estate because of the downturn in the economy.


The Byesville Starfire gas station in Byesville will no longer offer full service. Three "pump jockeys" will be laid off, reported The Byesville Village Reporter. "It's economics. That's all it is," said Hartley Co. president Tom Hartley. "Things are so tight. Costs are going out of site and sales are tough. We have to cut back any place we can. That's one place that just has to go. Hopefully at some point we can bring it back." The business recently shut down its third shift.

After "40 years and one month" in business, D&A Oil in Windham closed in early April, reported The Ravenna Record Courier. Owner Don Altiere said, "We don't get the 'trickle down' with the stimulus. Small businesses...are the backbone of this country, but we don't get the bailouts." He said he is in negotiations with another person who may continue the combination gas station and repair shop as is. The station survived the days of $4 fuel; although prices have fallen, Altiere said he only made 8 to 10 cents per gallon, and less when prices were dropped to compete with large, national chains. "We got through that and thought we were going to be OK," he said. "But the economy didn't help. People were so conservative by that time. Gas could be $1 a gallon and people weren't buying it. They were spending their money on other things." Car repair was the livelihood of the business, he said. He also had a small store, stocking cigarettes and nonperishable items, but that was a very small part of the operation. Altiere added that health issues also drove the decision to sell the business.


Fuel On Convenience Store & Cigarette Outlet opened in late March in Dallas near Wilkes-Barre, site of the former Dallas Uni-Mart. The store features gasoline, a car wash, convenience items, discounted cigarettes and a variety of cigars, the store manager told The Times Leader.