It’s been decades since there’s been an open business at the corner of Noank-Ledyard Road and Route 1. The long vacant and overgrown location was buzzing with activity Tuesday night as customers pulled up to fill up, a few coming in the store to grab a gallon of milk, a pack of cigarettes.
“After four years of trying, on Dec. 22 we finally got our approval from the town [of Groton] to open. And we did, we opened the same day,” said Anees Alawi, owner of the new convenience store and Valero gas station.
“Not a lot of people know we’re open yet,” he said as a gas customer came in the door to pay in cash. “But the people that know are happy for us. The police are happy for us and happy that we’re here now.” No longer a vacant lot where, he said, police often encountered “kids doing things they shouldn’t be doing.”
And it’s not just police that are happy. A neighbor came in the store and said she was “glad they’re here.”
“Now keep those lights on so people know you are open,” the woman told Alawi (she asked not to be identified for the story.) “It’s important to have this place open. I think it’s awesome.”
Alawi said that he is prohibited from selling a lot of different products in the store – “like cat food and cleaning products; brings too much traffic they say,” – but hopes to do well anyway.
“We don’t make money on the gas. That pays the rent. We make money on what we sell in the store. But we hope we’re going to do okay,” he said.
He explained that he is able to keep gas prices low – and has already been approached by area gas stations owners that are none too thrilled with his cheaper than locally average gas. Alawi is selling regular, unleaded gas at $3.49 a gallon – cheaper by about $.10 per gallon than area stations.
“We have good prices because we get our gas from Valero – that’s American gas from Texas,” he explained.
A call to San Antonio-based Valero found some answers.
“We don’t spend a lot of money on retail marketing and advertising. We don’t have TV commercials. We don’t add expensive stuff to our gas,” said Bill Day, media relations executive director for Valero. “We believe gas is a commodity and that customers buy by price. Gas is gas.”
And in San Antonio Tuesday, regular gas was selling for around $3 a gallon.
“Come on down here,” Day joked.
In the meantime, Alawi said he hopes the community will welcome him and support his business.
“We’re good neighbors,” he said.