The convenience store at Douglas’s only gas station, Douglas Depot, shut down Jan. 1. The Depot continues to sell gas, at least for now.
When Crowley Petroleum Distribution bought Taku Oil Sales last September, part of the transition plan involved shutting down the convenience store at the Douglas Depot.
“We decided that operating the convenience store is not something we do particularly well,” says Bob Cox, Crowley’s vice president in Alaska.
Crowley owns facilities in Western Alaska and the Railbelt, and moved into Southeast last year with the acquisition of Taku Oil in Juneau and Anderes Oil in Ketchikan. It doesn’t operate any other convenience stores in Alaska.
Cox isn’t sure how much traffic went through the Douglas Depot store on a daily basis, but says it wasn’t much, “I would say it this way, it provided a service locally to the community, but it’s a very small market over there on Douglas. And by the time you staff it fully and stock perishable products, it’s difficult. You need a lot of volume through a store like that to make it successful.”
Jeff Hansen is one of the former owners of Taku Oil and has been working for Crowley on a contract basis. He says Crowley’s decision to close the convenience store is the right call, “It’s a mom and pop kind of place. That’s just kind of the way those small stores got to be. It needs to be kind of a family-owned operation.”
Hansen says the Douglas Depot store was originally built as a Unocal service station. Unocal sold it to Taku Oil in the early 1980s. About a decade later, the service station was converted into a convenience store.
John Isaak has been a Douglas resident for more than 66 years and a loyal customer of the convenience store since it opened. He says people in Douglas are upset about the closure:
“It’s really sad because it’s kind of a coffee klatch operation in the morning. Everybody comes in – the locals – and everybody buys their cigarettes and whatever and that’s about it. I don’t know if they’re going to reopen or what they’re going to do ever.”
The convenience store employed one full-time and two part-time workers who are no longer with Taku Oil. Douglas Depot is currently run as an unattended gas station, just like Taku Oil’s Lemon Creek station.
Crowley’s Cox says he hopes the Depot can continue to function that way:
“I hope people will continue to support that. It’s the only gas station out there on the island so we think there’s a good market for that. We’d like to continue that. But I guess the market will eventually dictate if that’s going to be successful or not.”
Cox isn’t sure what Crowley will do with the convenience store building, but says there’s a possibility of leasing it to a separate business.