WILMINGTON - A year after the town's only gas station closed, owners of a local business are moving forward with plans to install gas pumps on their property. And residents are rejoicing.
Later this year, Roy and Becky Holzer will add gasoline to their list of offerings at their property on state Route 86, which includes the Little Supermarket convenience store and deli and a hardware store. The state-of-the-art system will include double-lined gas tanks and two main pumps, with two nozzles each, plus a diesel pump.
Roy, a former town supervisor who also owns the Adirondack Holiday Lodge property at the Four Corners, understands the importance of a gas station for the 1,250 residents and countless visitors of this tourist town, home to attractions such as Whiteface Mountain Ski Center, High Falls Gorge, Santa's Workshop and a number of motels. Not having a gas station puts economic development in jeopardy.
The Little Supermarket in Wilmington will add gas pumps sometime this year. (Photo — Andy Flynn)
"I think we would see a continued deterioration of things in the community," Roy said. "No one is going to invest from a commercial standpoint if we don't have a gas station."
Last April, the town's only gas station, sporting the Sunoco brand, closed. The convenience store was part of the Wilson Farms chain, owned by 7-Eleven Inc., based in Dallas, Texas. Located at the corner of Route 86 and Springfield Road, the property currently sits vacant and is the site of a fuel spill, which has prevented investors from taking a risk on the property, asserted Wilmington Supervisor Randy Preston.
"We couldn't be any more excited," Preston said of the Holzers' plan to install two gas pumps. "It's pretty tough to have a tourist town and not have a gas station. And that's certainly been a struggle since I knew that our current station was going to close and I had not been successful in getting anyone else willing to come in. I reached out to a lot of different companies out there, and at this point and time, no one wanted to come in."
After the old station closed, someone taped a "gas guide" on the front door.
"Somebody just stuck it on there to show people where the local gas stations are," Preston said. "I know it's been an issue with the traveling public because they get here and then realize there's no gas, and they get that look of panic on their face. I've seen that on more than one occasion."
The closest gas station is Devin's Garage in the hamlet of Jay, 5 miles up the road. Many people have also been getting their gas in the village of Lake Placid, about 12 miles away.
"I guess you just have to plan better," Preston said.
Roy has spent many hours planning the gas pumps for his property, and there's more to be done, such as look into tax incentives, acquire planning board approval and get a contract signed with a gasoline and diesel provider. On March 14, Roy met with Tom Hyde, the owner of Hyde Fuel based in Saranac Lake, and Chuck Friden, ExxonMobil sales representative for this region. Roy said it's important to have a branded gas station, such as Mobil or Sunoco.
"I didn't want to have, like, Bubba's Gas, if you know what I mean," Holzer said.
Still, the gasoline business is tough. After researching the project, Roy found there is no real profit in selling gas; however, his decision was made with the community in mind.
"It's a very minimal return on investment," Holzer said. "But from a community standpoint, I think it's vital for our residents and our tourists that Wilmington have amenities like a gas station."
Hyde Fuel currently services six gas stations: two in Saranac Lake, two in Tupper Lake, one in Long Lake and another in Indian Lake.
"I think it will be a great project," Hyde said. "Wilmington definitely needs the service, and we're working with Roy to try and put everything together."
No formal agreement has been reached. Asked when a contract could be signed, Hyde said, "Soon." Roy expects iinstallation to begin on the gas pumps by mid-summer.