Fuels

Open & Shut: 12-9-2007

CSP Daily News' ongoing look at independent store activity nationwide

OAK BROOK, Ill. -- With independent retailers making up a healthy portion of the convenience store industry, CSP Daily News offers another installment of Open & Shut, a geographic digest of many of the c-store, gas station and travel center openings, closings, sales, remodels and groundbreakings in towns large and small across America.

The roundup also shines a light on some very interesting operations run by unsung heroes little known outside their own markets, as well as chronicles some of the whys and wherefores of what inspired the openings and [image-nocss] precipitated the closures.

California

Construction on a new Tower Market store in Redding will start in the spring, Chris Cunan, an architect working for Torrance-based Tower Energy Group, told The Record-Searchlight. The company plans to build the larger store, along with four new gasoline pumps and possibly car wash. Tower is remodeling or rebuilding its stores throughout Northern California.

Arizona

Loma Catalina Co., the operator of gas stations and Catalina Mart c-stores owned by investor Tom Keating, has opened its 18th location, in Tucson, said The Arizona Daily Star. Additional profit centers chain-wide include car washes and fast-food restaurants such as McDonald's and Magpies Fresh, a division of Magpies Gourmet Pizza.

Georgia

EZ Kwik Trip officially opened for business in Fairview, reported The Northeast Georgian. Owned by Mike Hicks and managed by his son, Adam Hicks, the new c-store also offers gasoline, diesel and off-road diesel.

Illinois

A Fox Lake CITGO station has reopened following a major renovation, said The Daily Herald. Manager Jennifer French said the 3,000-sq.-ft. facility replaced a 700-sq.-ft. building that closed in March. A Mr. Submarine sandwich shop has also been opened inside. Co-owner Asim Abbasi said the decision to expand the 50-year-old building came after 3.5 years of planning. Abbasi owns the station with his brother-in-law, Mike Iqbal.

A 20-pump Shell station owned and operated by Beck Oil Co., Princeville, has opened in Lincoln. The station shares a building with an Arby's restaurant, said The Courier. But the first thing people notice when they walk through the door is a giant penny, with Abraham Lincoln's face on the visible side. A total of 32 colored ceiling panels frame the giant penny. The location also has Godfathers Express pizza.

Indiana

A sale of dramatically reduced-cost gasoline ($1.069 per gallon) was part of a renaming celebration of the Miles to Go gas station, c-store and restaurant that Tim and Toni Miles purchased this summer, said The Marion Chronicle Tribune. It was part of a promotion with National Oil and WXXC 106.9-FM, They estimated that during the two-hour promotion they pumped between 2,200 to 2,300 gallons of gasoline serving 175 to 200 customers. Miles said that his company's name was definitely getting out in the community. "That's the point," he said. "Change the name and get on the map."

Iowa

The Prairie Gas service station and c-store at the Interstate 80 Exit 168 interchange has opened, said The Newton Daily News. Dave and Melissa Fisher's store features a c-store that will serve as a welcoming center to Newton and Jasper County, featuring locally made products in addition to regular merchandise. It also offers the full line of wines from Jasper Winery, homemade breads and deli items and a "Beer Barn" walk-in cooler. At the gas pumps, it is the first to offer E85 blend ethanol in Jasper County.

Kansas

A Conoco station in Smithville that sat vacant for 14 months has reopened, reported The KC Community News. Wally Panatoli Hawari, operator of the Snappy Store, also in Smithville, has taken over the operation of this location.

The Gas N Go c-store and car wash in Wichita is for sale, reported The Wichita Eagle. The 5,000-sq.-ft. store is being marketed by Dan Discovery of SEA Inc.

Kentucky

Blue Chip Realty LLC has purchased the BP Gas Station/Dairy Queen in Hebron for $1.85 million, The CoStar Group said. Hebron Petroleum LLC sold the 4,400-sq.-ft. building and property for approximately $419 per square foot.

Maryland

Little George's C-Store in Sykesville has closed after 20 years, owner Mel Higgs said, because of the new lease was too short and too expensive. The store will move its merchandise into a nearby location, said The Business Gazette.

Massachusetts

F.L. Roberts & Co., Springfield, will build a %15 million travel plaza off Exit 2 of the Massachusetts Turnpike, said The Berkshire Eagle. The F.L. Roberts Plaza will be constructed at on the site of the former Diesel Dan's truckstop. It will consist of a four-storey, 93-room Hampton Inn, a yet-to-be-named 210-seat restaurant, a c-store and a gas station that will replace the existing one, with the diesel filling area for truckers separate from those for passenger vehicles.

Jay Lowry has pumped his last gallon of gasoline at his Annapolis gas station, said The Annapolis Capital. The retired police officer, who has had recent health issues, has owned the station for two decades. He plans to sell the property and most of his tow trucks. Lowrys' stopped accepting credit cards shortly before it finally shut its service-bay doors because of fees charged to process transactions.

Minnesota

A former Kwik Trip c-store in Prior Lake has reopened under the ownership of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community. Renamed the Shakopee Dakota Convenience Store, it will serve as a sister store to the tribe's other c-store there, reported The Prior Lake American. It has 13 fuel pumps and a car wash.

Randy's Discount Auto Center's in International Falls has expanded, said The International Falls Daily Journal. It has added a c-store includes a hot deli, coffee bar and soon tables and chairs. Owner Randy Splett said the new deli offers Piccadilly Pizza, burritos, hot dogs,Polish sausage, chicken strips, baked goods and soups and chili; the full coffee bar offers gourmet roasts and cappuccino. It also has fountain drinks, Cinnablast rolls and breakfast burritos. It is a full-service station with BP gasoline, propane, diesel and repairs, as well as a touchfree car wash.

Missouri

Alan Hoambrecker is building a c-store in Parkville, the first business to occupy a new development area, said The KC Community News. The plans are for a 6,000 sq.-ft., multifunction structure that includes a c-store, a liquor store, a carryout restaurant and a Stone Canyon Pizza franchise that will offer carryout, delivery and outdoor seating. The exterior design includes large umbrella-like canopies over the pumping stations that would direct lighting upward, creating a unique glow effect. Hoambrecker said the canopy would also focus the light on the store's property, diverting it from residences and passing vehicles.

Jared Enterprises Inc. is building the 26th Cody's Convenience Store in its hometown of Springfield, said The Springfield Business Journal. The 4,335-sq.-ft. store, with a price tag of $800,000, is expected to be completed in March.

North Dakota

After more than 20 years, Olson Services in Sentinel Butte is changing hands. Albert (Buzz) Olson is stepping aside to let his oldest son, Rickalso the mayortake the reins of the family business, said The Dickinson Press. It doesn't accept credit cards, and goes by the honor system. Rick Olson said there are about 80 keys in the community for the pumps. "It's the availability that helps us retain customers and is why we've stayed in business," he said. People write down how much fuel they've taken and the cost, or drop money in a slot at the front door. The station has two 1,000-gallon tanks, one with diesel and the other with unleaded gasoline. Depending on the day and season, the station can have up to 20 people visiting there a day, Rick said. The fuel comes from Mon-Dak Oil Inc. in Beach. "The community supports us and that's why we're still able to be here," Rick said. "The atmosphere of this place is laid back and easy going. Everyone enjoys coming in here and wants to support it. It's a valuable asset to the community."

Ohio

Walter "Marty" Harayda has sold his Fairview Park Sunoco station, purchased in 1957, to Giant Eagle's GetGo, in order to retire, The Westlake West Life said.

Oregon

Boston's Chevron in Yachats, Ore., is now Boston's Service Station, an owner-operated independent station, said The Newport News-Times. Rick Boston is still the owner. He still takes bank and credit cards, but won't be taking Chevron credit cards. "It's an expense and these days [Chevron] is really concerned with image and adding convenience stores to their stations," he said. A small station, Boston's is unable to comply with Chevron's new policies. He said fuel delivery also factored into the decision to go independent. "My jobber sold out to a bigger company whose tankers can't deliver here, so I have to pay for it to be downloaded up north onto smaller tankers for delivery, and that's another cost." The station has also added diesel.

Pennsylvania

A travel center with adjoining gas station has been closed, said The Pocono Record. Signs on the gasoline pumps say "Out of Gas." Owner Jim Ertle said the travel center is in transition into a shopping center. It was sold to Hamilton FC Associates LP of Plymouth Meeting for $12.2 million in 2006.

Rhode Island

The new owner of the XtraMart in Jamestown, Mahmood "Ali" Allam, made changing the name to Jamestown Mobil his first official act. "Other than that, for right now, everything will pretty much stay the same," he told The Jamestown Press. "Before making any changes, I want to get to know the store, and see what customers want and need. So, the prices aren't going to change, and we'll study the inventory and make adjustments as they are needed." This is the third store he has purchased since moving with his family to the U.S. in 1997. They previously lived in Dubai, and Oman, where he was the accounting and finance manager of an insurance firm. Allam bought his first c-store, the Sunoco Food Mart, in Cranston. In 2006, he acquired another store in Johnston. Recently, XtraMart offered the Jamestown store to Allam, and he thought the price was right, so he negotiated a deal. "It all happened very fast," Allam said. "It only took a few weeks. I signed a three-year lease."

South Dakota

Sioux Falls-based Olson Oil Co. recently opened a Get-N-Go store in Sioux Falls. The company soon will open another store there, reported The Argus Leader. That location is about twice the size of the 24-year-old Get-N-Go store that was demolished on the same spot in the fall.

Arnie's Service in Mitchell has closed its doors, said The Daily Republic. Owner Paul Dagen said the decision to close the stationwhich offered auto service, gasoline and coffee, snacks, soda and convenience itemswasn't easy. He said business has remained profitable; however, the time has come to spend less time behind the counter and more with his children. With no buyer, Dagen has had to sell shop equipment and inventory. He'd like to see the station re-open in some capacity.

Tennessee

Pit Row Market, a new gas station, restaurant and c-store has opened in Bristol, The Bristol News said. Owners Elmer Bare and Leon Dunn built the 5,000-sq.-ft. store about a half-mile south of Bristol Motor Speedway. A large gravel parking area on the west side of the store will be used for "spill-over" parking and a short-term place for tractor-trailers to stop. Entrances and exits from the gasoline pumps and store are three traffic lanes wide. Pit Row Market also offers a 42-seat restaurant called Hot Stuff, which serves mainly sandwiches and pizza.

Texas

A new convenience store, Centerpoint Station, has opened in La Vernia, said The Wilson County News. In addition to gasoline and diesel, the store will offer a range of foods and products, as well as pizza, fried chicken and a selection of other foods to order.

Utah

The Cedar Band of the Paiute Tribe celebrated a groundbreaking cer

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