Giant gas stations
And, of course, big-thinking entrepreneurs. John Benda's gas station-he calls it a travel center-occupies eight acres and earns north of $30 million a year. By contrast, most stations currently for sale in Texas sit on an acre or less, according to a search of real-estate site LoopNet. Nationwide, gas stations with adjacent convenience stores typically rack up about $2 million in annual sales.
A second Fuel City in Lufkin, Texas, occupies 11 acres; and a third, opening this year in the Dallas suburb of Mesquite, sprawls over a whopping 17. Benda recently acquired the land for a fourth Fuel City, in Fort Worth. "I can build two pretty good-sized ones for the price, " he says. "But I can build one huge one. So I am going to build one huge one."
But Benda's vision is far more complex and interesting than just building a big gas station. (Fuel City actually is not the largest station in Texas.) "I wanted to build a ranch in downtown Dallas, " he says. "I wanted people to see what this place was like before it was a city. So I brought in my longhorns and donkeys. I put in an oil derrick and a 90-year-old windmill."
And he positioned Fuel City as an entertainment mecca, with food that frequently makes best-of-Dallas lists, a car wash that features a view of the animals, and a swimming pool. As the local publication D Magazine put it, "calling Fuel City a gas station is like saying The Grapes of Wrath is a story about a car trip."
A vacant lot and a dream
Benda's background is as eclectic as his business. He was an entrepreneurial 10-year-old, retrieving golf balls from the lake at the country club his father owned, bagging them, and selling them back to the duffers. In the 1970s he attended several colleges-graduating from none of them-before embarking on a career that included life insurance agent, matchbox-advertising salesman, youth minister, and president of a disposable-lighter company.
In 1980 he acquired a smoke shop in downtown Dallas for $75, 000 and turned it into a convenience store called Friendly's. After a few years he sold that store for a small profit and opened another one. Then he did it again. And again.
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Does the Giant Gas Station sell eggs?
Giant Gas Station in Santa Fe, NM is a supermarket as well as a gas station, so I'm sure they do sell eggs. Phone: 505-984-2689.