Petro Express gas stations and convenience stores in Soldotna and Kenai closed their doors Tuesday and will not reopen.
Cheryl Beckham, chief operation officer of parent company Petro Marine Services, said the Petro Express brand stations on the Sterling Highway in Soldotna and on the Spur Highway in Kenai were closed for business reasons. She said it had been a difficult decision to make.
“We tried over the last five years to bring different marketing plans in to try and make it work the best for us,” she said. “We just couldn’t come up with the right recipe.”
Petro Marine’s main business is in home heating and bulk fuels, and the Petro Express stations are “a side venture,” Beckham said. The forces of competition in the central Kenai Peninsula communities were fierce, with six other stations nearby in Soldotna, and four in close proximity in Kenai, she said. Another consideration was the fact that Petro Marine supplies “mom and pop” stations in direct competition with the Petro Express locations.
“That was all part of the consideration,” she said. “In that situation, we saw it as being in our best interest to focus on our core businesses.”
The worst part of the closures, Beckham said, is the impact on the 16 full- and part-time employees (eight at each station) who were notified in person Monday by Petro Marine’s human resources director that their jobs were to be terminated. The company has engaged an Anchorage firm to provide assistance, including resume writing and job counseling.
“We’ve tried to do our best to help the displaced employees,” she said.
No such closure is planned for the busy Petro Express station in Homer, located along the Homer Bypass next to Safeway. It operates in a far less competitive market, Beckham said. Nor will other Petro Express stations around the state be closed.
At present, Petro Marine has no plans to sell the Kenai and Soldotna stations and stores.
“The operation now is to close and secure,” Beckham said. “One thing at a time. We didn’t feel compelled to offer them to anyone else. If other business opportunities come forward, we’ll take them into consideration at that time.”
Petro Marine Services is a wholly owned subsidiary of Harbor Enterprises Inc. According to the company Web site, the firm serves the fuel needs of Alaska and northwestern Canada.
Harbor Enterprises, owned by Dale and Carol Lindsey, who grew up in Seward, includes Petro Marine Services, which markets fuel throughout Southcentral and Southeast Alaska; Alaska Oil Sales, which markets fuel in Kenai and Soldotna; North 60 Petro Ltd., a bulk fuel and distribution company serving the Yukon Territory and northern British Columbia; and the Petro Express branded services stations, which still includes the Homer station, as well as a station on Kodiak and seven more in Southeast Alaska.
Hal Spence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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