Tag Archives: gas station

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.

Point-of-Purchase Advertising

Point-Of-Purchase (POP) advertising is built around impulse purchasing and use of in-store displays and other last minute marketing ploys to catch a shopper’s eye. As with all forms of advertising, the objective is to influence a person’s decision. Typically, a shortcoming of advertising is the time lag between when potential customers are subject to the ad and the time when they have an opportunity to make a purchase. POP advertising is effective as it eliminates such a lag time and attempts to influence the customer at the very moment that he/she is making a buying decision. Powerful Point-Of-Purchase marketing attracts interest and drives sales. It can persuade shoppers to purchase additional quantities of a product or to buy related products that are merchandised together. The ultimate goal is to increase sales at your location. Point-Of-Purchase promotion techniques often include window displays, floor stands, banners of any kind, end caps promoting a single product, counter displays, posters, signs, display bins, and even placement of related items next to each other on shelves. POP materials work best at eye level, using bright colors, engaging graphics and simple messages. Generally, these displays are created by the manufacturer for distribution to wholesalers or retailers who sell their merchandise. In fact, a manufacturer may discount the cost of merchandise or compensate the retailer in some other way for using their Point-Of-Purchase displays. This is especially true when using an end cap display, the prime real estate in the convenience store! To take full advantage of POP marketing, the advertisements must evolve constantly, mix up your merchandise, move around your displays, and keep your approach fresh. Once the customer sees the same display for a few weeks, it becomes ineffective. Additionally, if the sale is regularly available, customers will not feel the urgency to make a purchase.  It is well worth your time and effort to ensure eye appeal and take advantage of a targeted audience. Customers will make additional purchases and come back often to see if they can take advantage of the next exciting promotion.

SP Dealer Dennie Rhoads, BP Marketer

93chap“Tread gently on our hills, Tread gently. You are on hallowed ground.” This message is in an old white clapboard church, now renamed the Flight 93 Chapel. The Somerset church was refurbished and renamed in honor of the passengers of Flight 93. Huddled at the back, the passengers decided to rush the cockpit. Who can forget Todd Beamer’s command of, “Let’s roll!” They battled fiercely to recover the plane and the terrorists had no choice but to crash. Those few courageous Americans saved countless lives.

For almost thirty years, Dennie and Yvonne Rhoads have operated a mini-mart in Somerset PA. Back to the 1800s, Dennie’s ancestors have lived in the area. Dennie graduated from Somerset High School in 1967, and as a junior played football on their last undefeated team. In May 1969, shortly after he was drafted into the Army, to go to Vietnam, Dennie and Yvonne were married in that same church that is Flight 93 Chapel today. In early 1970, with a two-week-old baby girl at home, Dennie left home for a one-year tour in Vietnam operating in a recovery unit between Da Nang and Quang Tri.

Rhoads Mini-Mart has an old-fashioned feel. It has all the new-store amenities and products. But over on one side is a smaller room that holds extra stock, a lottery machine, old signs and promotional items, and a well-worn wooden park bench and assorted rocking chairs. Daily, elderly local men sit back there and drink coffee and solve the world’s problems. That room makes it much more than a convenience store. Rhoads’ is a place for life-long friendships. Returning from Vietnam, Dennie worked six years in a coal mine. He enjoyed the camaraderie of the underground world. The joyful way Dennie describes work in the mine illustrates that he is a person who sees the glass as half- full, someone you would like to have as a partner, or next to you in a foxhole. After the Flight 93 crashed, Dennie transported soup and sandwiches to Police and the FBI. When asked by the Daily American, Somerset’s newspaper, how he felt about volunteering, Dennie said, “I’m very patriotic and this means a lot me. It’s hard to describe. It’s wonderful we can honor the families for the sacrifices they made.”

Somerset has a rich history and was the central stage of the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. In 2002, nine miners trapped by flooding 240 feet underground for 77 hours were all rescued in the Quecreek coal mine. Somerset has ski resorts nearby and Mt. Davis, which has Pennsylvania’s highest elevation. Its local vineyards produce a wide variety of wines.

covered bridgeDennie took me to the Flight 93 Memorial through the Glessner Covered Bridge. Built in 1881, the bridge spans across Stony Creek. Driving through picturesque green mountains, we crossed this spectacular bridge. How ironic that we were headed to one of America’s famous disaster sites passing through one of our most beautiful old structures. Dennie knows the people in all of the houses we passed. His uncle lived there and a cousin lived there. We passed one quaint house and Dennie quietly said, “My friend Gordy Kimmel lived there. Gordy didn’t make it back from Vietnam.” Flight 93 crashed onto a reclaimed strip mine. Driving into the National Park, it has a surreal feel, a flattened mountain with moss-like vegetation starting to grow on the rolling treeless hills. Dennie used to hunt grouse and small game on the adjacent farm, owned by his aunt and late uncle, where now stands the wall of names honoring the heroes of Flight 93. It is a haunting experience for anyone. But for Dennie, a military veteran with his history in the area, and the personal experiences he had volunteering with his family, friends and neighbors, one can sense the exponential effect this memorial has on him, and how much Dennie loves America. Yvonne is one of five girls all raised in Somerset. Her sisters live all around the country. Yvonne’s mother said to her, “You’re the only one who stayed.” Yvonne lifted a finger and pointed to Dennie, smiled and said, “I stayed because of him.” Even after over forty years of marriage, and thirty years working together in the store, one recognizes the true friendship and genuine love between Dennie and Yvonne. She is a registered nurse and continued working as a nurse the first year they had the store. They raised three children who all live close by; a daughter Paula who is a pharmacist, a son Michael who is very successful in the construction business, and another daughter Jacglen (named after both her grandfathers) who is a physical therapist. They sent the girls to college and paid for their weddings. They have five grandchildren, all boys. Michael bought almost 70 acres of forested land nearby. They hunt and ride quads on this fertile mountainous paradise. Someday Michael will sell the timber on the land to pay for his children’s college education. Dennie is proud of his children’s long-time association and accomplishments with 4-H. Dennie said his kids worked in the store growing up, and learned valuable lessons that helped them forge a strong work-ethic.


White Flag ExportedConsumer Activist Jamie Court calls it, “Capitulation, after you get bonked on the head by $4 gasoline enough times, maybe it doesn’t hurt as much. But there is still plenty of consumer angst bubbling under the outward signs of resignation.”

In 2008, when gas prices soared 35% in six months, Detroit automakers asked the federal government to bail them out. Gas prices are soaring again, yet the auto industry is booming. While it previously caused outrage, drivers now seem to take rising fuel costs in stride. Why?

The recent price rise of roughly 15% isn’t quite as bad as 2008. Gas-guzzlers are being replaced as new cars average nearly 17% better mileage than those purchased in 2008. According to the Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove 1% fewer miles last year compared with 2010, but the nation used 3% less motor fuel.

Americans have been driving less as each year passes. Virtual contact, all the different ways people use technology to stay in touch, Facebook, texting and Twitter, all entail that you don ’t need a car to hang out with friends. Because of the internet, fewer teenagers are bothering to get their drivers licenses. Years ago, gas and insurance were cheap, and cars were easy to fix. A kid could patch-up a clunker with parts from the junkyard, and cruise. Between $4 gas, high insurance and expensive cars that are complicated to repair, driving must be a daunting impossibility for many young people.

Gallup polled drivers, and found that 28% said a price point in the $4 range cause them to reduce spending in other areas. Some people just don’t drive as much and are careful to combine errands. But, at $5, over three-quarter of drivers say they would start changing spending habits. Gallup said , “There is room for a greater increase in gas prices before Americans say prices will cause widespread, serious consequences on their spending and lifestyle patterns.” So the oil companies know they have room to raise prices even higher.

Consumers need to be voracious in their complaints to the government and oil companies, especially where because of refinery and fuel blend issues, prices are higher than in other regions. The gas station owners are not to blame, and are being squeezed just like the average person. Consumers and gas station owners need to stay in touch with their representatives and suppliers to try and prevent even higher prices in the future.

The American with Disabilities Act

american flagThe Americans with Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) is a law that was enacted by the U.S. Congress that prohibits, discrimination based on disability, defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” The original intent of the law was to create civil rights law protections for people with disabilities that would prohibit all discrimination. It was intended to be a flexible set of laws that could only be strengthened, not weakened, by future case law. One pending six-figure lawsuit involves a legally blind man and his seeing-eye dog being asked to leave a business. No individual may be discriminated against on the basis of disability with regards to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation.

In this multi-cultural world in which we live, those of us who operate gas/station convenience stores have to be sensitive to this issue that may encompass seeing-eye dogs, or people with physical or mental handicaps. So please be aware and perceptive to the needs of handicapped individuals. It is not only the right thing to do; it can prevent unnecessary future litigation.

The Face of S.I.S.

Frank J DiDonato ExportedWhen it comes to creating a beautiful gas station/c-store, Frank J. DiDonato says, “From putting pencil to paper, to design and layout, to the completion of the job, you don’t have to go anywhere else.”

Frank and his team at S.I.S. design gas station/c-stores and then supply those stores with tanks, pumps, point of sale equipment, shelving, any equipment one might need. And they assist the store in achieving environmental compliance. With charm, humor, and classic good looks, for over fifty years he has served our region and Frank has a sterling reputation.  Born in Baden and a graduate of Ambridge High School, Frank attended Geneva College, served in the Coast Guard, and is revered by his large extended family. Frank is an accomplished musician playing the guitar, cello and bass, and played in a Hillbilly Band.

S.I.S. does all the installation and service for Countywide Petroleum Company; they wouldn’t use anyone else. S.I.S. gets most of its business through referrals from satisfied customers. An employee with ten years of service, J.R. Bachor says, “I’m happy about our association with Countywide Petroleum Company. They are trustworthy and they have helped a lot of people in the business.” J.R. added, “S.I.S. always goes the extra mile. With exceptional pricing, we provide the latest products and technology and caring personal service. We want to create an environment where our customer’s stores can reach their full potential.”