Locally owned gas stations losing battle at the pump
Reporter: Steve Nunez
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - For years, small mom-and-pop retail business owners have battled big box stores in what has proven to be a losing fight for many. Now, this same battle is taking place at the gas pump and owners of independently run stations say, they too, are singing the same death song to big chain convenient stores.
Jim Hunsberger has owned All Brands Gas station and food market since 1988. On this day, gas sells for $3.63 a gallon.
"Our volume has dropped down from about 8,000 to 9,000 gallons a day to about 2,000 gallons a day," said Hunsberger.
But Hunsberger said it's not the high gas prices that's putting an economic squeeze on his cash register.
9 On Your Side Reporter Steve Nunez asked: "So why not lower your gas prices?"
"We can't afford to," answered Hunsberger. "We're only making 5 to 6 cents a gallon now."
Instead, Hunsberger blames Quick Trip, the new kid on the block, for the rising death toll of small mom-and-pop gas stations.
Hunsberger says he's now one of about only a dozen independently owned gas stations still standing.
Nunez asked: "Why not just expand and compete?"
"Because they have very deep pockets and small business can't get loans," said Hunsberger. "We can't expand and look at what property is going for.'
Quick Trip will soon have 16 stores in Tucson and even though there's not one within miles of Hunsberger's station, he still accuses the chain convenience store of selling gas at or below market value to take away business.
"And they won't have the competition and they can charge you whatever they choose to," said Hunsberger.
9 On Your Side contacted the Tulsa, Oklahoma based company.
We asked spokesperson Mike Thornbrugh if QT's pricing strategy is designed to monopolize the market so it can then turn around and raise gas prices after its competition shuts down.
Thornbrugh said, "Quick Trip has always been a very high volume company that does business based on low margins."
Thornbrugh goes on to say small business owners, like Hunsberger, should view competition as a driving force to grow their business.
"If you do nothing and you haven't done nothing for years your chances, no matter what business your in, is not very good."
Hunsberger said the only hope for small gas stations to stay open is if consumers make it a point to think local and buy local.
Competition aside, Thornbrugh said Quick Trip employs more than 200 people in Tucson.