What people most want with a fill-up is a fresh donut–that’s the independent conclusion of two experienced gas station owners, though they went about getting their donuts in slightly different ways.
Chuck Gallup was so eager to advertise the donut supplier at his Citgo station on Packard that he stenciled “Dexter Bakery” on the awning months before he added Gallup One Stop. That sparked rumors that the bakery was opening an Ann Arbor branch. Karen Dudek, who owns the Dexter Bakery, has been fielding that rumor for months. She supplies baked goods to several other coffee shops and convenience stores in the area but has no stake in Gallup One Stop other than a deal to sell Gallup as many donuts as his customers can eat.
Gallup joined the family business in the 1970s, and “started the conversion of gas stations into convenience stores back in the late seventies. Back then, gas stations all had service bays, and inside all they sold was cigarettes and candy.”
Gallup’s father, Arthur, was the Gallup in Gallup Silkworth Petroleum, from whom most mid-century Ann Arborites bought their heating oil and LP gas. On the side, Arthur dabbled a little in gas stations. Chuck took the gas stations, cleaned them up, got rid of the service bays, and stocked them with groceries, renaming them to reflect their new purpose. At one point, he says, he had about eighteen Pump N Pantry stores.
Eventually Gallup sold off the chain and branched into commercial real estate, but he’d always been fond of this particular gas station on Packard: “My father built it in the late fifties, early sixties.” He was able to buy it back in a bankruptcy auction about ten years ago and spent much of this year rebuilding it.
Though Gallup One Stop looks like a new building, underneath it’s actually the station Chuck’s father built, with the old porcelain tiles stripped off and a brick facade added. Gallup isn’t running the store himself–he’s leased it to Pradipkumar Patel (“everyone calls him Patel–I don’t even know his first name,” says Gallup, “and I’ve dealt with him for years”) and his wife, Nisha. At press time Gallup One Stop wasn’t quite open, but looked very close. Patel confirmed that Dexter Bakery would be supplying sandwiches, donuts, cookies, and muffins. Patel also confirmed that no one ever calls him Pradip.
Gallup One Stop, 2955 Packard, no phone at press time. Daily 5 a.m.-midnight.
“I built this place fifteen years ago,” says Abraham Ajrouch, owner of Ann Arbor Gateway, the newly rebuilt Shell station and market at Eisenhower and Ann Arbor-Saline Rd. The new building is three times the size of the old one, but it no longer has a car wash: “Ten, fifteen years ago it made sense to have the combination. Now people aren’t so much for washing their cars. I’m serious!” says Ajrouch, who at one time owned six gas stations in southeast Michigan.
He blames the economy in general, the price of gas in particular, and the fact that more people are leasing cars and aren’t so invested in them. “So I decided I needed something that would fit for this area. I decided a coffee shop that also sells beer and wine. I figured that’s where it’s all going–coffee, beer and wine, bigger stores.”
Michigan law is a little touchy about issuing liquor licenses to gas stations. Not wanting to be seen as directly promoting drinking and driving, the law requires gas stations to jump through a number of hoops that separate the two (including the ludicrous requirement that the fuel pumps and the alcohol be physically separated by fifty feet). The biggest obstacle–the one that necessitated a demolition and a rebuild–is that gas stations that carry alcohol must have at least 55,000 square feet or maintain inventories of at least $250,000 in nonalcoholic items. That’s more than a few shelves of Doritos. Ajrouch’s expanded inventory even includes fresh hummus and fine cigars.
He considered several coffee franchises–Biggby, Coffee Beanery, Dunkin’ Donuts–“but most people wanted Tim Hortons,” he says of the Canadian donut chain that claims to be bigger than McDonald’s on its home turf.
Though Tim Hortons was originally just a donut shop, most outlets, including this one, now also make bagels, sandwiches, and soups. (The donuts are delivered frozen from the corporate kitchens and baked on site.) Ajrouch’s Tim Hortons isn’t just a takeout counter. The store within a store has a little nook with an electric fireplace, comfortable chairs, and a TV. Ajrouch says Mayor Hieftje came to his October 25 grand opening: “He said he likes Tim Hortons donuts.”
Ann Arbor Gateway and Tim Hortons, 2679 Ann Arbor-Saline Rd, 332-0906. Daily 24 hours. No website.