"Mom & Pop" gas stations at risk of closing, many upgrading

Lawton_Consumers aren't alone in getting squeezed at the pump.  More "Mom & Pop" filling stations are closing or only providing convenience store service.  Last year, 3,184 of the nation's 164,292 gas stations closed their doors - the biggest drop in five years.  So, stations that are still open are making changes before it's too late for them.

The manager at Hop-n-Sac at Pumpkin Center says their station isn't closing anytime soon.  The "Mom & Pop" gas station is located on Highway 7 - an ideal location for truckers, farmers, and ranchers, who all use plenty of fuel.  Unlike many family run stations that are being forced to close, manager Jodi Laird says they won't.  In fact, the station is making plenty of changes to ensure their doors stay open.  "If we don't stay competitive there's going to be another store down the road that will," she says.

Soon, the Hop-n-Sac will offer pay-at-the-pump service, a courtesy and technology that impacts both sales and customers.  "I drive down this main highway all the time," says customer Jess Keener.  "You can pull up at night and fill up, and swipe your card without going in."  The store closes at midnight, so without the pay at the pump service, the station loses big business - especially from truck drivers.  "Closing at midnight they would have no place to get fuel," says Laird.  "Now that we have pay-at-the-pump, they'll be able to fill up and get back on their way."

Laird says that for a small gas station like hers, they depend on big-rig gas sales that average $500 per fill.  But, replacing gas pumps aren't the only changes they've made.  One year ago they began having customer pre-pay.  "Before we got to pay first, we had such an outrageous amount of drive-offs - sometimes $700-$800 a month."  She says that even though it's a small station, it has to change with the times to see a profit.  "They [customers] don't realize the price of gas is just as high for us as it is to the customer."

Gas stations have to purchase their fuel daily.  So, if they purchase $5,000 worth of gas and don't sell all of it, they spend the next day playing catch up.  On Tuesday, workers began pulling out the old pumps at the Hop-n-Sac, and the new ones will be up and running on Sunday.  Until then, the convenience store will remain open.