Joseph Kafi put his degree in biology from Wayne State to use when he overhauled the Shell station on the corner of State and Eisenhower.
Kafi says he hoped to upgrade the station in 2007, when he bought it from his brother-in-law Abraham Ajrouch. (Ajrouch still owns the Shell station up the road, the one with the Tim Hortons). The Great Recession derailed Kafi’s plans, and it was only last May that he could get the bank loan he needed.
Now the work is done, and he’s reopened as A2 State Gate. “We’ve improved the corner dramatically,” Kafi says. “We cleaned up the soil, put in a fire hydrant and a water retention system for the hundred-year flood. You’ll never see a lot of what we did,” including double-walled fiberglass fuel tanks underground to prevent leaks.
Above ground, he’s got Ann Arbor’s (and as far as he knows, Michigan’s) first high-speed commercial vehicle charging station. It can recharge an electric car in sixteen minutes for about $6. For more traditional cars, he’s added two diesel pumps alongside the regular gas pumps. But he chose not to sell E85, the supposedly green high-ethanol fuel blend. “It’s biofuel and subsidized by the government so it’s cheaper, but until they come up with better science, I don’t want it,” he explains. “The energy it takes to make it is damaging to the environment.” Even the canopy over the pumps may be put to work by putting solar panels on it.
Bonnie Bona, project manager with the Clean Energy Coalition and Ann Arbor Planning Commission member, has been working with him to put his sustainablility plans into practice–hooking him up to the city’s PACE program, for instance, which gives tax incentives for energy efficiency. Bona has been empressed by Kafi’s approach. “He’s very conscious of that building’s relationship to the buildings in the area, and thinking about doing the right thing–I saw him trying to be more than just a gas station,” she says. “That’s really leadership. That’s stepping out. We don’t always get that with gas stations.”
Part of the inside is still under construction. In the spring, Tia Saad will open a Phoenician Thyme there. Kafi emails: “It will offer healthy and flavorful Mediterranean food that’s produced from ethically sourced, local ingredients,” including many vegetarian and vegan options.
A2 State Gate, 2991 S. State, 662-1790. Mon.-Fri. 5:30 a.m.-1 a.m., Sat. & Sun. 7 a.m.-1 a.m. (eventually 24 hours).