Lucky's Luck Runs Out

Mullinville Enterprises terminates lease of bankrupt c-store operator over conditions

GREENSBURG, Kansas -- As a Mullinsville, Kansas, retailer struggles through bankruptcy, the owner of its store property is doing what he can to close the site and get it cleaned up. Mullinville Enterprises has forced the lessee of its convenience store, known as Lucky's, to vacate the premises on June 14 under penalty of legal action, according to a report by The Kiowa County Signal. The store had closed on June 8.

Kansas City, Kansas-based Convenience USA LP filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in January. According to court documents, it claimed assets of [image-nocss] between $100,000 and $500,000 and liabilities between $1 million and $10 million. A financial statement shows that the company saw only $9,000 in income in 2009 after taking in nearly $14 million the previous year. The amount due on the mortgage of its three stores totals about $476,000. Its largest creditor is noted as Sinclair Oil Corp., which is owed about $511,000.

Calls by CSP Daily News to Convenience USA's attorney were not returned by press time.

In a letter dated June 4, 2010, and signed by treasurer Norman Volz, Mullinville Enterprises cites "waste, failure to pay taxes (county property taxes), failure to keep the premises insured, failure to remit insurance proceeds, failure to keep the premises in good repair, failing to keep the gas pumps operational, and other violations of your lease agreement."

The letter also stated that "action will be brought [against parent company Convenience USA] to evict [it] from the premises."

Known for decades as one of the only towns in Kiowa County where a motorist could not buy gasoline, Mullinville undertook action a little over a decade ago to join Haviland and Greensburg as a place a traveler could fill his or her tank, said the report.

Concerned citizens and business people of western Kiowa County incorporated in the late 1990s, forming Mullinville Enterprises to raise the money to build a c-store with gasoline and diesel pumps. Opening in 2000, the c-store/truckstop was originally named Sunflower Plaza, selling Amoco fuels. Several years later, however, Mullinville Enterprises board members decided management of the facility was too much for them.

"It was a matter of time," Volz, owns and operates Volz Oil in Greensburg, told the newspaper. "None of us had time because we had our own businesses to look after."

The board entered into a lease agreement with Convenience USA in 2005 to operate the facility, then known as Convenience Xpress, which later changed its name to Lucky's. As time went by, maintenance and management of the facility began to lag, prompting the board to place "some phone calls to the owner or someone with the corporation in Kansas City," according to Volz.

Little improvement resulted, however, prompting the letter of June 4.

Citing several conditions he had seen himself, Volz said, "The bathroom would be out of order a lot longer than it should. The ice machines on top of the fountain drinks don't work and haven't been fixed. As dirty as it is I wouldn't want to stop in there if I were a traveler. And around Memorial Day they didn't have any air conditioning for a week. It was time to do something."

Once Convenience USA has left, Volz said the store will not stay idle long. "Maybe a day or two, but no more than that," he told the paper. "There's one party that's shown interest in taking it over, but until we find someone for sure, [Mullinville Enterprises will] step in and keep it open ourselves if it comes to that. We're going to keep it open."

On June 14, Convenience USA moved its inventory out of Lucky's, the Signal said in a followup report. "I'm thinking that by the time we get the legal stuff straightened out, we'll have a new tenant for it," Volz said. "And that could be by the end of the weekby July worst case."

He added that the prospective tenant currently operates such facilities in the state of Kansas, and is someone "we've been in touch with about this for a while."

The price of gasoline has been consistently around 40 cents a gallon higher at Lucky's than elsewhere in Kiowa County, Volz told the paper. "That's something that's been going on for six to eight months. If I had to guess I'd say they had the price higher to try to improve their cash flow."

When known previously as Convenience Express, the store was found to be charging a full dollar a gallon more than the going price of gas in the days immediately following the May 4, 2007, Greensburg tornado, the report added.