Small, independently-owned gas stations received a major break on Monday when they were able to buy fuel at the same price as the major brands.
On average, mom-and-pop stations have to charge up to 30 cents more than chains, like Arco and Exxon, when demand for gas rises. They also have to buy at higher prices.
Monday’s 50-cent drop came as welcome relief, but station owners say the price change was bittersweet after a tough weekend amid record-high fuel costs.
“It’s a miracle,” said one independent owner.
Some small stations were weighing the benefits of closing up shop when the price per gallon in California climbed near $5, and many owners think they may never recover from last week.
“This weekend was a horrible loss for me,” said Riverside’s Western Gas owner Fade Heshma. “Sometimes, a half hour or hour goes by, not one customer.”
“They killed my business,” said a neighboring owner, Fred Weis. “You have a big jump then you change to a different place.”
Loyal customers say understand the businesses’ plight.
“These poor independent guys say they’re not making a profit margin,” said customer John Peterson, adding that he’ll never abandon the small station.
Still, more customers told NBC4 they can’t afford to think like that.
Unemployed, Charlie Herrera had to borrow $1, which is all he put in his tank.
“Hopefully, that will give me another 3 or 4 blocks,” he said.
Heshma predicts that eventually, his kind of stores will be extinct.
“One day, there will be nothing but major brands,” he said. “All major mom and pop shops will be taken out.”