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Open & Shut: 8-19-2009

Recent c-store, gas station openings, closings, sales, especially among independents

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

Especially on the independent operator level, this recurring feature provides a regular snapshot of the constantly changing retail marketplace that includes such outlets as convenience stores, gas stations, truckstops, travel centers and related locations. [image-nocss] For more on CSP's commitment to coverage of the independent segment, click here.

Arkansas

The site of the former Horizon Travel Center in Forrest City reopened as Flash Market on July 27, said The Times-Herald. "We've been in town for a long time," said Jamie Patterson, with Flash Market. "We think we've got a nice foothold in the community, and we're trying to enhance our presence in the community." He said the new Flash Market, along with the c-store and fuel, will feature a Dairy Queen. Also coming in soon will be D'Bos Wings & Things. And where the coffee shop, with drive-through, was located in the old Horizon operation, there will be a Tobacco Warehouse with drive-through.


California

Larkspur Gas in Ross Valley reopened in late July as Marin Gas & Auto Service after an abrupt closure that left the station dark for days, reported The Contra Costa Times. Abe Khmamosh, who owned the station for about five years, recently sold to Paul Towel, said Robin Lee, manager. The station was shuttered as they worked out the details, much to the surprise of customers and the station's staff, which scrambled to finish repairs and release vehicles back to owners. Two cars remained in the shop during the several-day closure and the owners were given loaners. The station is accepting cash only until new credit-card terminals can be installed.

Bonsall Service Station LP purchased an ampm station property in Bonsall from BP for $2.6 million, said The CoStar Group. The buyer paid a total of $3.25 million for the real estate and the business. The one-acre property includes a 5,405-sq.-ft. retail building that was constructed in 1990. Tisha McClinic of NRC Realty Advisors represented BP in the sale.


Connecticut

A longtime Ridgefield station has reopened with a new look and a new brand of gasoline. Formerly a CITGO station and Ridgefield Auto Park, the location has been remodeled and turned into a Valero station, open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, reported The Ridgefield Press. "Since we changed over gas sales have tripled," said owner Peter Canale. The new building, "a little larger" than the previous one, houses a Dunkin Donuts franchise owned by Jim Cain. "Dunkin Donuts brings in a lot of traffic," said Canale. "It's a big draw." Cain said, "The Dunkin Donuts, convenience store combo works well." He also owns 30 other Dunkin Donuts franchises. The store also offers pizza, hot dogs, frozen food, ice cream and light groceries, including milk, bread and eggs. "We are trying all kinds of new things," said Canale. Newspapers, magazines, household and automotive products and lottery tickets are available at the store. Canale is also arranging for Ridgefield Tiger sporting store apparel and goods to be sold.


Colorado

West Des Moines, Iowa-based Kum & Go LC opened a c-store in Dacono on July 31, according to a company "tweet."Click here to view a picture of the location.


Florida

Grand Bank & Trust of Florida is seeking to foreclosure on three stations that were repossessed by the holder of the second mortgage, reported The South Florida Business Journal. The stations are in West Palm Beach (5,160 sq. ft.), Lake Park (1,776 sq. ft.) and Palm Beach Gardens (940 sq. ft.). The bank filed the foreclosure action last week against GKL LLC, GK LLC and GGSK Ithe three related entities that owned the stationsand their managing member, Kevin W. Dalton. The complaint is based on a first mortgage issued for $3.8 million in 2006 for the properties, according to court records; however, the parties Grand Bank made the loan to no longer control the sites. Each of the three companies received a separate $2.4 million second mortgage from David Steiner, Palm Beach Gardens, and Jeffrey Flegel, Miami, in 2007. The two private lenders foreclosed on one station and took the other two through a deed in lieu of foreclosure this year. In July, they transferred them to holding companies through quit-claim deeds for $10 each. Grand Bank's complaint also names Steiner and Flegel as it aims to wrest control of the properties away from them.


Georgia

Motorists will still be able to get full-service at a downtown Macon station for a little while longer. 13WMAZ reported on the closing of the 74-year old Saf-T-Oil gas station in mid-July. Attendant Lee Hencely said the new owner of Saf-T-Oil, John Suh, decided to keep the station open temporarily until a new station can be built there. Suh also owns the Marathon station across the street. He said he is not sure how much longer he will keep Saf-T-Oil running full-service, but he said once Saf-T-Oil closes, customers will be able to come to his Marathon station and receive help pumping gasoline if they ask.


Idaho

Express Lane, the Sandpoint area's first c-store catering solely to drive-through customers, was set to open in mid-August, said The Bonner County Bee. After learning of similar stores in Texas, the East Coast and a few Idaho communities, Adrian Cox, president of Sandpoint's AGC Enterprises, decided he wanted to introduce the idea to Sandpoint residents. Unlike traditional c-stores, Express Lane will not have a parking lot and standard entrance, but will instead usher cars inside the building, where store employees will take orders, accept money and send drivers on their way out the other side. The store will primarily stock beverages including alcohol but will carry a small assortment of other grocery items, such as eggs and bread. "One of the reasons we'll have a limited selection is to keep things moving fast. Everything is designed to be quick. We've got Internet-based credit-card processing because it saves about 10 seconds on the transaction. Everything is made to be extremely fast," he said. Cox has been planning the store for years, and said it is purely coincidental that a similar store, owned by Dairy Depot's Jay Van Den Berg, is in the process of being built on the north side of town.


Illinois

A CITGO station in Glenview has rebranded to Shell, with a Maverick c-store, according to CSP Daily News.


Indiana

In early August, workers began tearing down a BP station in Hobart to make way for a new Luke Oil station, c-store and car wash, The Gary Post-Tribune said. Although Luke still needs to go before the city Plan Commission on Thursday for final plat approval, the Hobart-based station operator received permission to begin the demolition to have the new station in operation by the end of the year. Ryan Richardson, Luke Oil's vice president of development, said the company just has a few items to clear up for the city, including small changes to the way it filters stormwater. "It's just a formality," he said. He said the building will be replaced by a 3,500-sq.-ft. station/c-store with the car wash located in the back. The building will be set farther back from U.S. 30 than the previous building with parking provided in the front. The company purchased additional land to the east of the former station to improve traffic flow on the site. This is one of three stations Luke Oil plans to open in Hobart soon. Richardson was also set to appear before the commission to finalize engineering for another station and is awaiting approval from the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to operate yet another station. Luke Oil will operate about 25 stations when the three in Hobart are complete, Richardson said.


Iowa

Doug and Marci Robinson, Dave and Judy Robinson, and Gene and Peg McCool opened The Corn Crib, a BP station in Shelby, Iowa, in early June on I-80 at Exit 34, said The Harlan Tribune. It resembles a farm storage barn. "We wanted to be different, better, friendlier," said Gene McCool. "We never wanted to be normal. We always wanted to be unique." They began stocking the store shelves with grocery items not typically found at local gas stations. It offers free wi-fi. Inside are a number of booths and tables that the owners hope will provide a local morning or afternoon hangout. Gatherers at the Corn Crib will find themselves sitting amidst a classic farmscape with a life-size wagon and buggy, a fanning mill used for cleaning oats and a chicken nest with a fake hen. The Corn Crib spent the whole winter taste-testing barbecue before landing on Austin Blues, a line of smoked meats from Hormel Foods. Now, they prepare and sell the $6 to $7 meals on a daily basis. It has a Domino's pizza franchise. It also features samples of Homegrown Potato Chips in a grain-bin bucket at the cashier's counter. "We didn't anticipate the potato chips to be such a hit," said Marci Robinson. McCool made it his top priority to see that the Corn Crib was also environmentally friendly. The building is double-insulated and features energy efficient lighting, while the interior paint is free of VOCs (toxic solvents) that are released into the air as paint dries. The building has been certified LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Midtown station in Storm Lake opened under new management as Midtown Pronto on July 20, said The Storm Lake Pilot Tribune. Inder Singh, who owns Pronto, now manages Midtown as well. Singh said he approached Midtown owner Mary Ann Zweibahmer about purchasing the station and she liked the idea. He said he plans to give the station a facelift including a Domino's Pizza kitchen, new pop coolers, beer cave and newer pumps that accept credit cards. He said the station will continue to sell propane, diesel and will honor many of the current charge accounts. The convenience store is now open 7 days a week, but Singh said he may change that to 24 hours sometime in the future.


Kansas

Five months after the Hilltop Convenience store was set on fire and burned to the ground, the store owners decided to re-open, said KAKE-TV. "After the fire, we were really devastated," said Hilltop owner, Twila VanRossun. But she said people kept asking when they were going to re-open, so they had no other choice than to move on and re-build. Evan Johnson, Walton's Mayor, said the town lost a significant amount of money which would have been generated in sales tax throughout the five months the store was closed. Now that the store is back open, that revenue will start coming back into the town. It's something that is necessary, he said, to keep the town afloat. "We're so glad they're back," said Johnson. "If we didn't have this little place, we would really be hurting," he said. Police are still investigating the arson.


Maryland

Less than three months after an Exxon station closed, the owner of another Exxon station on the same road has said he will close at the end of July, leaving that major Columbia artery with no stations, at least temporarily, said Explore Howard County. Abid Qureshi, co-owner of the Town Center Exxon, said increased rents on the property and fuel prices have forced him and his brother, Amjid, out of business after more than 10 years in that location. Qureshi declined to reveal how much he pays for rent or fuel, but said he has not been able to find a buyer for his franchise. "The rent is so high that nobody would want to come in here," he said. His rent has more than doubled over the last six years, he said. Though he declined to be specific, he said he had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. "The last six years have been rough," he said. On May 7, the other Exxon station closed and remains vacant. The Qureshis moved into the Columbia location in April 2009 after owning an Exxon station in Washington for 12 years, Qureshi said. Until recently, he said he had a good relationship with Exxon. Qureshi said he wished Exxon had notified him in advance of the price increases. "If I had known I could have planned for this," he said.


Michigan

Kevin Bahnam's philosophy is bigger is better, at least when it comes to his new 7,000-sq.-ft. USA 2 GO station and market northeast of Howell. It offers eight fridges for beer, as well as a 600-sq.-ft. beer cave, hundreds of wines, 20 flavors of fountain pops, six smoothie flavors and 25 coffee and cappuccino varieties. "This is our philosophy: It's all about variety," Bahnam told The Daily Press & Argus. "What can we offer customers that's different from other places?" Bahnam operates other USA 2 GO stores in Commerce Township and New Hudson, but his newest is the largest. The new store, paired with a 115-ft. car wash and 26 fueling stations, has its own small kitchen, where employees make sandwiches, pizza and breadsticks. The store has LED lighting and an energy-consumption system that cuts down energy use by 25% to 40%. In addition to selling domestic and import beverages and food, Bahnam said each area of the store also has a Michigan-made section. "We're trying to identify that and see if we can help Michigan," he said. Krispy Kreme doughnuts are delivered daily and the store has large cigar, tobacco and liquor selections. Bahnam said his large selection allows him to keep his prices more in line with other c-stores or even grocery stores and that he considers USA 2 GO to be more of a "market" than a gas station/c-store.


Montana

After 31 years in business, Tim Hornbacher is selling his namesake station, Tim's Exxon, said The Independent Record. The garage remains the only full-service stop in Helena. With its 1950s decor, it represents a throwback to the days when customer appreciation counted for more than a commercial jingle. Hornbacher said the time has come to settle down and take it easy. "When I bought this station, there wasn't much out here," he said. The employees are dressed in red shirts emblazoned with the Tim's Exxon logo. Old fashioned Coca-Cola bottles sit on ice outside the door and Exxon trinkets decorate the office. The theme captures a bygone era in automotive needs. "You've got to keep up with the times, but I've tried to never lose the perspective that the customer is king or queen," he said. When the station does sell, Hornbacher said, it will be up to the buyer to decide its future. Given the current trends, Hornbacher said he fears it may become a c-store or casino. Full-service stations have gone with the times. "If I sell tomorrow, fine. If I don't sell for a couple of years, well that's fine too. I'm just putting the hook out."


New Hampshire

D&R Convenience Store LLC, Rumney, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on July 14, reported The New Hampshire Business Review. Assets were $365,775. Liabilities were $339,292.


New Jersey

A judge in mid-July ordered the temporary closing of a Washington Township station after the owners pleaded guilty to price gouging, reported The Express-Times. Express Fuel reopen July 20. The judge also ordered the station's owners to pay a $1,500 fine and court costs. An investigation by the Warren County Department of Weights & Measures revealed the station owners violated a rule permitting only one price change within a 24-hour period. Santos speculated the Express Fuel price went down and back because the owners realized they mistakenly lowered the price more than they needed to.


New York

Earlier this summer, Saratoga Springs-based Stewart's Shops was awarded a Certificate of Completion by the state Department of Environmental Conservation for the Environmental Restoration Program cleanup of a property in Dolgeville. Work was in progress at the shop to expand the building, add an additional parking lot entrance and several new parking spaces and erect a new canopy.


North Dakota

Eagle Run Crossing, a Tesoro station, c-store and touchless car wash opened in late July in West Fargo, reported In-Forum.The store has a variety of groceries and a deli that offers broasted chicken. The facility also has lottery tickets and a filtered water tank. The fuel dispensers are open 24 hours for credit-card purchases.


Tennessee

A Shell station and c-store in Westwood, Tenn., sold August 3 for $1.1 million to the lender, BLX Capital Real Estate LLC, in a trustees' sale, reported The Memphis Daily News. BLX Capital, Charlotte, N.C., foreclosed on the previous owner. The sellers were Stephen C. Baker and Derek W. Edwards of the Nashville law firm Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis LLC acting as trustees in the matter. Prior to the trustees' sale, Larnce M. Wright and Vera F. Wright defaulted on a $1.7 million loan through BLX Capital dated June 9, 2006. That loan secured the retail store and three other parcels. The 7,517-sq.-ft. c-store was built in 2000. It sits on 7.98 acres. The Shelby County Assessor of Property's 2009 appraisal was $911,800. Larnce Wright paid $125,000 in 1995 for the vacant land to open a Texaco & Hot Stuff Pizza, according to permits filed on the property. The site now operates as a Shell station with a barbecue, pizza and chicken restaurant.


Texas

Permits were filed in City Judge Lela Odom's office in mid-July to start the construction process for the proposed location for a Valero c-store in Kirbyville, said The Silsbee Bee. Construction of the c-store/gas station is expected to cost almost $1 million, which includes the construction of a store, restaurant and fueling stations. Plans are to have the store open by January 2010. The property is owned by Jasper Oil Co. The c-store will be about 6,000 sq. ft. and will include a full-service restaurant serving breakfast and lunch, as well as a coffee bar, a full selection of fountain drinks and snacks. The company is still in the process of deciding to run the store on a 24-hour basis and is expected to employ at least 15 people. The station will have fuel pumps with gasoline but not diesel.


Washington

A new station is planned for Quil Ceda Village, said The Daily Herald, and leaders of the Tulalip Tribe said rewards members of the Tulalip Resort and Quil Ceda Creek casinos will likely be eligible for discounts. Construction was under way in late July. Tulalip tribal members will get a discount, too, but it might not come in the form of cash. Sovereign Indian tribes and their members are exempt from fuel taxes on tribal-owned stations on reservation lands. Fuel taxes are paid when a wholesaler purchases the fuel from a distributor. Tribal governments that operate under fuel-tax agreements with the state can ask for a refund for a portion of the tax on fuel sold at stations owned and operated by tribes on tribal land. Some tribes pass that tax exemption along to tribal members by giving them a discount at the pump, but other tribes take the state refund and invest it into their own governments. The Tulalip Tribes in 2002 signed an agreement with the state that allows for a refund based on the number of members in the tribe. The tribes' leaders are currently negotiating for a flat refund of 75% of all the fuel taxes paid. The tribal board is still discussing its options, Tulalip chairman Mel Sheldon said, but that money is likely to be funneled into the tribes' general fund. Plans for the station include 16 pumps. A second phase of construction, planned for later this year and early next year, could bring a c-store.

Emailyour store openings and related announcements to glindenberg@cspnet.com or www.twitter.com/glcspdn.

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