Category Archives: Spotlight Interview

A Series of Encounters

EncounterWhen reflecting upon one’s life, it is often the case that you can look back over a series of events that shape and help mold your life. It is rare when you can pinpoint the moment that had the greatest impact. For brothers Sagar and Sanjay Ukani, they feel blessed for meeting the right people at the right time in their lives. Sagar and Sanjay had not even finished high school when they relocated to the United States from India to forge a better life for themselves and their families. They had no money, no understanding of the English language and felt as though they knew nothing. Sagar likened it to being born one day and expected to survive on his own the next day. This was a scary, terrible feeling- one which he vowed his children would never experience. The brothers, united in their endeavor, were up for the challenge; they would never shy away from hard work.

Sagar and Sanjay found employment at a convenience store in New Jersey. They took immense pride in their work, which was noticed in a chance encounter with David Vakil, an encounter that would change the course of their lives forever. David had himself journeyed from India to the US, was making a good life for his family and promised to help Sagar and Sanjay get started on their journey. With a handshake and a gut feeling, Sagar and Sanjay put their trust into this man they just met. From that day forward a relationship was formed that far surpassed a business arrangement- it was an opportunity that changed their lives.

C04 Fueland 4001 OM Enterprises - AfterDavid Vakil owned a gas station and convenience store in Pittsburgh and offered to sell it to Sagar and Sanjay. This offer sounded simple enough, but was far from ordinary. Obviously, Sagar and Sanjay could not buy it outright, they would need to work it off. And let’s not forget, they were starting from a blank page. They knew nothing of the fuel business and were unable to communicate well using the English language. Their challenge was monumental, but David promised to teach them everything he knew about the gas station and convenience store business. He worked with them every day and even brought his son into the store to work side by side with Sagar and Sanjay. The brothers faced many struggles but were determined to succeed. They worked 18-19 hours a day, 7 days a week, covering every hour the store was open. Their main objective was to provide exceptional customer service. It didn’t matter how things used to be run, or how neighboring businesses conducted themselves, Sagar and Sanjay had their own vision.

Once someone stepped through their doors the goal was to secure that customer for a lifetime by providing competitively priced items with priceless customer service. Customers came to know and respect Sagar and Sanjay and became “regulars” at their gas station and convenience store. Within 3 years, the brothers were able to complete their purchase of the station from David Vakil. Now they were ready to take their business to the next level. Following in David’s footsteps, Sagar and Sanjay decided to work with Superior Petroleum Company. Superior Petroleum designed a supply program specifically tailored for their store. Drawing from their vast experience, they were able to work with Sagar and Sanjay to implement a more productive means of operating their location. Since their collaboration with Superior Petroleum in 2006, the brothers have access to the latest technologies and up-to-date POS systems and new state-of-the-art dispensers. Presently, Sagar and Sanjay Ukani refer to the aforementioned gas station/ convenience store as their first location, their “heart.” Superior Petroleum Company helped them increase their fuel sales and acquire additional gas stations/ c-stores.

The Ukani brothers were not only blessed in business, they were blessed in love. Sagar and Sanjay feel lucky to have found the people who will be in their lives for a lifetime, as each are married with 2 children. They admit that at the beginning they had put business first and missed out on a lot of family time. Their driving force was knowing that their efforts would result in giving their children the opportunity to receive a good education without the trying times they experienced. Sagar and Sanjay remain dedicated and can still be seen in their stores on a daily basis. They love what they are doing and have no plans to stop any time soon…but they often pause to give thanks to those people that have made an impact on their lives.

Tony and Lurline’s Daughter

Erma And Chuck Framed ExportedCountywide Petroleum Company Dealer, BP Marketer Erma Dodd lives by several philosophies. One is “Separate Principal from Personality.”  For Erma, “Principal” means the job has to be done right, honestly and fairly. “Personality” means when conducting business, personalities do change but her “Principal” still has to be followed. Another value Erma lives by is “she appreciates her integrity too much to lose it.” A wonderful person, ultimately, Erma’s life is guided by her faith.

Tony and LurlineExportedErma father Tony Saveikis was the son of Lithuania immigrants. At age fourteen, Tony began work as a butcher in the West Park section of Pittsburgh. Five years later, at nineteen, Tony bought the shop. Tony met the love of his life when his future bride Lurline came into his store. In the early 1940s when Erma was two years old, Tony found a thirteen acre farm, ten miles west of Pittsburgh. Reluctantly, Lurline agreed to move to the “country.” A short time later, a new Route 22/30 cut through their property and that meant traffic and travelers. Tony built one of the first motels west of Pittsburgh. Would they name it Tony Town or Tonydale?  Their second daughter was named Toni so they decided to name it Tonidale. Motel business operates around the clock so it was logical that a twenty-four hour a day gas station so the Tonidale Gas Station was born. Tony decided the gas station’s midnight shifts would keep an eye on the motel and rent the rooms during the night. The guests needed somewhere to eat so a small diner came next.

In 1961, the “Superhighway,” the new Route put the gas station out of the main stream of traffic. Tony bought a piece of land down the Pike and literally picked up the gas station and moved it to the better location.  Tony bought another piece of cloverleaf shaped land nearby that had a little house and Tasty Freeze ice cream stand on it. On that property, Tony built the Tonidale Barber and Beauty Shop.

In the 70s, Tony built the Tonidale Self-Serve Station that was visible from the Superhighway and the first kiosk was so small it did not have a bathroom. The employees had to run across the street and use the restroom in one of the other businesses. In 1985 that station was branded Amoco and it was slightly enlarged to include an employee bathroom.

Erma fondly recalls a joyful childhood with a brother, sister and a doting mother and father, who were industrious, loved people and treasured each other. On Saturdays when Erma was in 7th grade, she worked with her dad at Tony’s Market. She weighed produce and put it in a brown paper bag and wrote the price on the bag for customers. She dusted shelves and kept the products facing properly.  In the 8th grade, she remembers wearing an apron and working at the Tastee Freeze. The next few years Erma worked Saturdays cleaning rooms at the Tonidale Motel. In the summer after her junior year, she worked in a bank. In 1957 Erma graduated from West Allegheny High School and received the honor as “Most Outstanding Student,” and she was State President of the “Future Business Leaders of America.”

After high school, Erma and her husband owned the Tasty Freeze and began their family. They moved into the little house next to the stand and operated the Tasty Freeze, and raised three sons who came to know all of their customers. After eleven years in the ice cream business, her dad helped Erma and her husband buy the Fort Pitt Motel. They moved into an apartment next to the motel office and worked there from 1969 until her marriage ended in 1987.

Months later, Erma went to the bank and a stranger opened the door for her. Two years earlier, Chuck Dodd, a contractor, had become a widower. Chuck noticed that Erma did not wear a wedding ring and Cupid hit him hard. Simultaneously, Erma noticed this gentleman. After learning she was single, Chuck sent a note to the Bank Manager and asked him to give it to Erma. The bank manager passed the note and arranged a meeting. From then on the bank manager’s nickname became “Cupid.” When they became a couple, the Bank Manager retrieved an image from a security camera that showed the two of them looking at each other that very first day. To this day, it is one of Erma’s most treasured photos. Erma calls Chuck her “Prince Charming.” After they wed, Erma moved from the motel to Chuck’s farm and home atop a hill with no neighbors in sight. She thought she had died and gone to Heaven. No more getting up in the middle of the night to rent rooms. Together in 1992, they bought four acres next to the motel and Chuck, his brother and sons and Erma’s sons built the Aqua Jet West Car Wash. In 2000, Chuck designed and completely rebuilt the original Tonidale Gas Station from the ground up and was on sight when the first shovel of dirt was turned until completion. Married for twenty-five years their combined family consists of seven sons, one daughter, their spouses, twenty-seven grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren.

In 1977, Erma lost her mother; with tears spilling from her deep blue eyes, she recalls raising a glass of wine with her father to toast her precious mother’s memory. Lurline’s untimely death suddenly ended Tony’s drive to expand his business ventures and he was content to just care for and enjoy his family. Sadly, in 1986, after a lifetime of laughter, friendship, love and accomplishments, Tony died and Erma said, “joined Lurline in Heaven.”

In the late 90’s Amoco was purchased by BP. In 2008, Erma signed a contract to become part of Countywide Petroleum Company’s growing family. For years it was known that the bridge on the original Steubenville Pike had to be reconstructed. Finally in 2010, the bridge closed and traffic was cut off. Customers had a detour of two miles to get to the BP Station from the east and local customers from the west had to drive around road blocks to get their BP gas.

Erma has immense gratitude for the help Milo and Countywide Petroleum Company provided during the long fourteen-months that the bridge was closed and that it will still take years to recover from that loss. During the time of the bridge closure, Countywide re-imaged the Tonidale BP which included new dispensers, fresh paint and repairs to the parking lot; and Countywide also extended Erma other financial considerations. Erma says that her BP Station could not have made it without Countywide Petroleum Company’s kindness, understanding, help and support.

To this day, Erma misses her cherished parents and she often wonders what her life would been like without them. Erma knows she is blessed to have been Tony and Lurline’s daughter.

A True Hero

DonBowersBorderedDon Bowers is a hard-working, humble and determined man with the tenacity and dedication of a true hero. He has been through many trials, tribulations, and just plain beat downs, but has always managed to get back up. Don’s determination was formed early in his life.  He was born during the Baby Boom era, an “after war baby” he says with a smile. He grew up in New Kensington, Pennsylvania along with 2 brothers and 1 sister.  At the age of 14, Don’s father was killed in an automobile accident, a tragic loss and an incredible obstacle to overcome, one of many life would throw at him.

After graduating from New Kensington High School Don worked as a floral designer at a flower shop. His desire to develop himself and the business drove him to pursue further schooling for floral design. Don moved to Connecticut to put down some roots and start the next phase of his life. Things were calm… but a storm approached.

In May of 1967 Don was drafted into the army, an experience that would test his courage and shape him into the man he is today. Due in part to his leadership qualities, he quickly made it to the rank of Sergeant. Five months into his service, Don was sent on a search and destroy mission, a mission that would forever change his life. It was New Years Eve 1967, Sergeant Don Bowers stepped onto an enemy mine and lost his leg, a devastating injury requiring 11 months in the hospital. Now what could he do? Don was an honorable, courageous and dedicated Veteran, a life member of the Military Order of the Purple Heart. He had a lot to offer, but no one wanted to hire him because of his disability.  He wound up back at a flower shop, the only business that would offer him employment.


In 1970 Don’s mother in-law at the time had a job at an oil company called E.F. Houghton. She could no longer handle the position and asked Don if he wanted to try out for it. He did, and his career in the petroleum industry was born. In the beginning, the petroleum field was brutal, a lot of “knock downs and drag outs” Don remarked. “There were really tough people to work for, but if you stuck it out, you would learn a lot.” And that is what Don did, it was in his character. His success in this industry came from sheer determination. He worked his way up the ladder and learned nearly every aspect of the business. He made a lasting friendship with the toughest guy he ever worked for, Don Smith. It was Don vs. Don for nearly 12 years. It was a tough but invaluable learning experience. Smith gave Bowers a real backbone in this business.

In his current position as manager of petroleum products and transportation at Countywide Petroleum Company, Don has finally been able to work with a little more ease because of the way the company operates. Don’s vast knowledge and experience has taught him the best way to get things done for his customers. With the company, management and employees all working together, inspired by Don’s dedication and tenacity, his career in the oil industry and all those touched by him will continue to thrive. Don’s strength of character carries through to his wife Tina, their four children, four grandchildren, and even the great-grandchild on the way! Despite his numerous achievements in life, Don still possesses that burning desire from within to push forward and achieve more, and he has no plans to change any time soon.

The Little Things

Tony Martin Spotlight Interview Photo Small

There are plenty of gas stations, convenience stores, and auto repair shops out there that offer the necessities at average pricing, but succeeding in today’s competitive market requires those extra “little things.” Be they gestures, actions, or words these little things can spark a turning point in your life or keep you on the path to greatness. This is the mindset of Tony Martin, a down-to earth, free hearted man who found his niche as an entrepreneur.

One such “little thing” still resonates in Tony’s mind, even though it happened over 20 years ago. In 1985, Tony was a young man taking his first steps into the business world when he was hired by Gibb Chevrolet to wash cars. The job itself may have seemed menial, but Tony put his heart and soul into it. He loved meeting the diversity of people and wanted every customer who drove away to be completely satisfied and inclined to return. Tony’s boss was impressed and made a simple comment that with Tony’s smile, he should go into business for himself.

Tony Mart Logo SmallTony, being one of seven children, was used to fighting for what he wanted, but he questioned whether he really had what it took to be a businessman. The words of his boss stuck with Tony and he wanted to share his idea with a very special person in his life, his mother, Norma Martin. There was no hesitation on her part, she knew Tony had what it took. Norma only had $300 but she believed in him and was willing to give Tony a chance to make it on his own. His mother’s support was a monumental turning point in Tony’s life. “I wouldn’t be ‘Tony Martin’ without my mom,” Tony said with a smile.

Tony knew the path he wanted his life to take. This young, skinny, wet-behind-the-ears man had his mind set and jumped in with both feet. Tony rented an old building with dirt floors and only a little kerosene heater to provide warmth. He purchased 300 gallons of gasoline, a case of motor oil and opened “Tony Mart.” Back in the day, people only bought enough gasoline to drive to town and back. Tony made himself available from 9:00 in the morning until 6:00 at night, just a little thing that meant a lot to his customers. If someone needed one gallon of gas Tony was pleased to meet them and more than happy to service them. It was a memorable moment when a customer filled their tank for the first time at Tony Mart. $27 in a single transaction! The possibilities were endless that day. Tony proceeded cautiously, slowly buying more, doing his best to provide his customers anything and everything they wanted.

Tony Mart Before Photo

Tony’s customer base was growing and he did his best to keep pace, never letting his values or quality of service suffer. Tony focused on the little things. He greeted customers by their names, ordered the merchandise they preferred, and charged fair prices. He hired competent employees who were eager to learn and willing to develop the skills needed to provide Tony’s standard of excellent customer service. He mostly hired young, inexperienced workers who were grateful for the opportunity. These workers respected Tony and were compelled to do their best for him. He knew he was given a chance by his mom, and strove to pay it forward.

Customers respected Tony and appreciated all the little things he did at Tony Mart. Positive word of mouth spread in town as loyal customers told their friends and family of the excellent service. As word spread, Tony recognized an opportunity to expand his business and started providing tire repair services. Before he knew it, he was repairing tires, selling tires and even performing related auto services. He eventually became a licensed Goodyear dealer.

In 2012, Tony Mart was branded Valero by Countywide Petroleum Company, and the station underwent a transformation with a new canopy, POS system and new dispensers that provided customers the option to pay at the pump with credit cards. Tony received customized graphics that breathed new life into his store. With the assistance of Countywide Petroleum Company, Tony has been able to double the size of his convenience store and significantly increase his fuel sales. With more efficient methods of operating in place, Tony has been freed up to put more time into his tire shop. His business is thriving, his customers are happy, and he is making life better for him and his family. Tony’s wife Angie was there for him at the start of his journey. He is so thankful for her love and support, as well as that of their two sons, Cory and Chris. Tony has immense gratitude for the support of Countywide Petroleum Company and will continue doing all the “little things” that make him Tony Martin. Thank you mom!

Tony Mart After Photo