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Open & Shut: 6-8-2007

An occasional digest of recent station and store openings, closings, new owners, more

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- While high-profile retailers and large acquisitions always garner the most attention, new-store activity on the part of small retailers continues, with many convenience stores and gas stations openingas well as closing and changing handsaround the country.

CSP Daily News offers another installment of Open & Shut. Although far from comprehensive, this digest of recent business activity celebrates the unsung heroes of the industry, the independent retailer.

Alabama

Glenn Houser, owner [image-nocss] of Glenn Houser Texaco in Birmingham recently put his gas station and auto repair business up for sale so he can retire, reported The Birmingham News. He said the profit margins on the gasoline side of his business have gotten squeezed over the past three years as prices have risen.

Arkansas

Two former Git-N-Go c-stores in Altheimer have reopened as Drive-N-Buy, said The Pine Bluff Commercial. The first reopened in late May; the second reopened in early June. The stores were two of 10 c-stores that were closed in 2005 by the former owner, Mallard Express LLC. Plans are still under way to reopen the remaining stores, according to store manager Arief Hossion.

California

One of Pleasanton's oldest gas stations has closed, the victim of rising rents in a prestigious corner location and profits inadequate to meet the increasing financial demands, said The Pleasanton Weekly. Owner Rick Branchini locked the doors and turned off the pumps at his station known for its teasing sign: "Open 25 hours a day." Shell Oil's real estate division has fenced off the site awaiting a decision on whether to reopen or sell the site.

Colorado

The Oak Creek Sinclair station closed in mid-May, said KUSA-TV. It was the town's only station; the nearest station is now 10 miles away. A sign reads, Due to circumstances beyond our control the Oak Creek Sinclair will be closed for an indefinite period of time.

Florida

Paul Resop is developing a Chevron gas station in The Villages, said The Villages Daily Sun. Over the past 30 years or so, Resop has built numerous c-stores, then leased the facilities to operating tenants. That includes the two Shell-branded gasoline stations in The Villages. The Sumter County Development Review Committee approved Resop's preliminary plans in April to build a 3,790-sq.-ft. c-store and station. Resop negotiated an agreement to lease the building to a Tampa-based petroleum retailer, an affiliate of Guyton Energy Corp.

A BP station in Fort Myers is being renovated, said The News-Press. Owner Brian Nemeth bought the station from the previous owners in December. The station reopened in late April under his management, and the interior has been finished, including an additional cashier, bathroom, office and beer cave. Exterior changes will include new tanks and dispensers. The station will close for three months for that part of the project. Other exterior changes include new entrances.

Illinois

The Fairview Quickstop opened in mid-May reported The Peoria Star Journal. Built by Jim Petersen, it includes a c-store, gas station and attached restaurant, Regina's Pizzeria. The venture is a first for Petersen, who has owned and operated nursing homes, farms and other businesses. He also owns Wee-Ma-Tuk Country Club. Petersen said the restaurant will deliver to Fairview and Wee-Ma-Tuk, areas which have never been able to get delivery from other restaurants. The station has six gasoline pumps and two diesel pumps, and sells E85.

Kansas

The Snappy Store and gas station in Smithville has a new look, said The Smithville Herald. In addition to typical c-store items, the new store features home decorator pieces. Wally Panatali, part of the new management team, said Snappy Store warns customers of impending gasoline price increases. When everyone else raises their gas prices, we wait, he said. We tell our customers to fill up because we're going to raise the prices at 6:00.

Maine

Lori's Island Convenience Store & Redemption Center opened in late May in Wiscasset said The Wiscasset News. The new owners of the former Island Variety store on Westport Island are Jay Seigars and Lori Meite. They have added a bottle redemption center. Former owners Paul and Brenda Bonyun opened Island Variety in 2002, purchasing the property from the Caristis, who had run the store for about nine years. The Bonyuns operated the store until 2005.

Michigan

In May, Amer Saleh of A&M Land Co. acquired the 6,925-sq.-ft. Shell gas station/Wendy's restaurant in Kimball from William Sefton of Wildwood Beverage Inc. for $2.15 million, said The CoStar Group. The property also consists of 80 parking spaces, 2.4 acres and is zoned C-2. The sale included a 20-year lease with what was termed a strong guarantee.

Minnesota

The owners of a Maid-Rite Corp. sandwich franchise acquired a St. Cloud gas station in early May, said The St. Could Times. Atta Fast Foods Inc. will take over ownership of Vuke's ProFuel. The station's previous owners were Ron and Leslie Vukelich. Atta Fast Foods is owned by the Allen Anderson family and longtime employee James Current. When the Vukelichs put the business up for sale, Atta Fast Foods wanted to buy the business, since Maid-Rite is attached to the station, said Audrey Anderson, assistant CFO of Atta Fast Foods. The new owners plan to expand the sports theme of the station by adding more decor and Viking merchandise. The store will be managed by Terry Anderson and has 10 employees.

Last winter, Brent Staples, co-owner of Express Way gas stations and c-stores, got approval from the City of Westbrook to build a new station, said The Sentinel Tribune. Staples and his partner Alan Staples currently own 14 station/c-stores, most located along I-90 between Rochester and Sioux Falls. They also own three outlets at Janesville, Mankato, and Sanborn. The new BP station and store is expected to open mid-summer.

Nevada

In early May, JAK Properties LLC purchased a gas station in Las Vegas from Funston Properties LLC, the CoStar Group said. Total consideration for the deal was reported at $3 million. The 5,256-sq.-ft. building was constructed in 1995 and is on 1.25 acres. In addition to the c-store, the property also contains an automated car wash. The new owner will be doing business under the name Funny's.

North Carolina

McFarling's Exxon, the last gas station in downtown Chapel Hill was sold and closed in mid-May, reported The News & Observer. Rod McFarling said the station has been in his family about 35 years. I'm just selling out because I'm ready to not work so much, he said. The property was assessed at about $677,275, according to county records. The business owed about $32,825 in property taxes, including interest, dating to 2004.

A new Friendly Mart c-store is slated to open in Spivey's Corner, reported The Daily Record in late May.

South Carolina

Fairway Fuel recently opened on the Fort Mill Sothern Bypass, said The Fort Mill Times. In addition to a c-store and 18-pump (including ethanol) gas station, the complex also boasts a lube shop and car wash. Space for fast food is still available in the c-store complex. The company has also partnered with Budget Rent A Car to offer truck rentals.

Virginia

The Lake Anne Chevron station in Lake Anne reopened in mid-May, 14 months after a motorist drove his truck into the gasoline pump, said The Fairfax County Times. Owners Bobby and Neeta Kapoor said they thought the station would reopen in two to four months, but their contractor delayed the project and then declared bankruptcy. Kapoor said he was touched by the community support. Millenium Bank was also helpful with loans Kapoor needed to rebuild. In addition to selling gasoline and diesel, the station does repairs and emissions inspections. The Kapoors bought the station in 2001. Bobby had previously worked for a Shell station in Fairfax Circle for 15 years.

West Virginia

The Corner Connection, a new c-store, is up and running in Wheeling, said The Wheeling Intelligencer. Along with typical c-store items, it also offers arts and crafts, as well as handmade jewelry, said Scott Ullom, co-owner of the store with Jack Carbasho. And it has live bait and fishing lures.

Wisconsin

In early June, Ed Francois opened a new development called The Station in Janesville, according to The Janesville Gazette. The nearly two-acre parcel includes a Subway, a gas station and a c-store. Francois Oil Co. owns and operates 17 stations in a 50-mile radius of its home base in Belleville, Wis.

Cindy's Caf in North Morrison changed hands in April and has been renamed the Country Crossroads c-store, said The Appleton Post Crescent. Former owner Cindy Beyer is managing the restaurant, now known as The Crossroads.

This summer, Jim Pankow Inc., a Plymouth-based construction and design firm, will rebuild and enlarge a CITGO station in Grafton. The current station, owned by Mike Khaled and his wife, Haba Musleh, is 1,100 sq. ft. and will be expanded to more than 3,400 sq. ft. The rebuilt station also will have a combined convenience and liquor store and is expected to open in September.

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