By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
who with his wife, Liz, operates Forshee’s Chevron, was the only independent
operator in the county who told the Sentinel he depended on gas prices to make
a living. He doesn’t see how some of the other independents survive
consistently selling it at a loss, he said, or even the big corporate stations.
“You can’t stay
in business losing money, I don’t care how big you are,” said Forshee.
operators say they depend on in-store sales to make their profit. Forshee’s
Chevron is in a slightly different situation. Forshee decided 25 years ago not
to have anything to do with alcohol or lottery sales, which cuts down
considerably on what he can hope to make inside.
So the Sentinel
had expected him to report he made most of his living on car repairs. Forshee’s
Chevron is one of the few remaining – “We’re a dinosaur,” said mechanic Bill,
popping inside with an invoice – gas stations that still boast full-service
automotive maintenance and repair operations.
not bragging about how much he makes off that end of the business. He says he
pay his mechanics well and the rest goes to insurance. “I have to have several
thousand dollars a year just to have that out there, the liability,” he said.
Forshee, he makes his margin by marking up his per-gallon price 10 or 12 or 15
cents, depending, over what he pays the distributor. “I know what I’ve got to
make to stay in business,” he said. “I’m
in a mom-and-pop store.”
Forshee’s is a
“Chevron jobber,” he explained, selling only Chevron gas, which he buys from an
independent distributor that contracts exclusively with Chevron. “We can’t
wager on the open market,” he said. “Chevron don’t own us, but we fly their
Forshee and his
wife trust in the Chevron brand, they said, but for pricing they look to the
distributor, which has people for that. “Gas fluctuates daily,” said Forshee.
twice a day,” put in Liz.
prices go up and down with the market, said Forshee, a confusing business that
consumers find it hard to understand. “I’ve been in this 25 years and I don’t
understand it all,” he said.
But the bottom
line, he said, is: “I’m not gouging nobody.”
Gas pumps run
him about $15,000 a pop, he said, and then there’s maintenance. Not to mention
credit card swipe fees and percentages, added his wife. So they set their
prices based on reality and try to ignore what competitors charge.
Forshee’s attractions over the competition used to be that he offered “real,”
or non-ethanol gas. He had to give that up when that commodity was no longer
available from the Chevron distributor.
But what he sees
as his other unique draw is good old-fashioned service. “If you have trouble
with your car, or a tire flat, or wanted your air checked, you’d come up here
and we’d do it, check your air and not charge you one dime,” he said. “A lot of
people do that and don’t even trade with me. I’ve got free air down there that
people can get any time. They don’t have to put no 50 cents in or a dollar in.”
And that, says
Forshee, has so far kept his customers pretty loyal. “Really, all around and
around, they might save a little money on gas but they’re not going to get the
service they get here,” he said.