Sixteen cents. That's how much the price of gas has dropped at Hollin Hall Automotive Service Station in the last few weeks. Formerly known as Hollin Hall Shell, owner Tom Harvey recently severed the relationship that he's had with major oil companies — Gulf, Chevron and Shell — over the past 43 years.
Harvey believes that he can better serve his customers by becoming an independent operation and purchasing his gasoline from unbranded companies. He believes that it's the same product; you just don't pay for the name.
When the signs first came down, Harvey said, "It will be the same faces and we will provide the same level of service. Nothing will change except the name, and the prices will come down a little. We no longer want to pay the prices the major oil companies are charging. They have made it impossible to be associated with them and make a profit. That's the main reason we're changing."
Harvey has already achieved his goal of lowering prices, and this week, Harvey's brother, Jim, said, "Everything's going well, prices possibly could go down a little more."
They are still working out some issues with the credit card readers on the gas pumps, which are currently not working. Jim Harvey said that Tom had ordered special equipment for the switchover beforehand, but that they discovered an incompatibility with the software and the machines. They expect that everything will be worked out in the next couple of weeks.
In the meantime, Jim Harvey said, "Everybody's been very patient. It's like the old days when everybody came in [to the office] and said 'hello.'"
Harvey said that he believes that more stations will go this way. "You're going to see more people going independent," predicted Harvey.
A FEW MILES AWAY, Syed Shakeel, owner of Belle Haven Shell, shares that sentiment. He has managed the station on Belle Haven Road for many years. It used to be called Belle Haven Texaco, but Shell has purchased all the Texaco stations and is in the process of converting them over. Shakeel would like to break the ties with the oil company, but is locked into a contract with them for 10 more years. He needs to wait it out or pay them $200,000; he's hoping to do the latter.
"I only make 5 cents a gallon at the most. If I raise my prices, nobody will come here," said Shakeel, who is also disgusted with the antics pulled by the major oil companies. He said that because they are zoned as a ìrich area," the company charges him more.
Shakeel said his lease was up, and Shell tried to get somebody else to take over. He went to the landlord, who agreed to sell him the facility.
"I bought this place. I'm going to stay," said Shakeel.