Larry White has seven more weeks to save his business.
The proprietor of the Savage Exxon, at the corner of U.S. 1 and Howard Street, discovered last month that Exxon Corp., which owns the station, was seeking zoning variances to tear down his service bays and build a convenience store.
Problem is, no one from Exxon thought to tell him about it. And because of the mix-up, the corporation had its hearing before the county Board of Appeals rescheduled for Oct. 20.
Mr. White said he will meet corporation planners in two weeks and try to convince them to seek a zoning change to keep his auto repair business open. After the station was built 21 years ago, its zoning changed, making it impossible to rebuild it as a service station, said Exxon attorney Frank Hunter
"We can run a candy store, but I don't think you can make the same amount of money selling candy," said Larry's father, Don White. The elder Mr. White ran the station from 1976 until 1988 when his son took it over.
"Larry grew up on Savage-Guilford Road, so all the kids he went to school with are his customers." About 15 people, customers, station employees and their families, came to Thursday night's Board of Appeals meeting to voice their opposition.
William Waff, president of the Savage Community Association, was also there to show concern about the station's three mechanics losing their jobs and the new store competing with the Wawa convenience store.
Mr. Hunter said postponing the hearing is aimed at giving Exxon planners a chance to better explain their proposal to Larry White. "They haven't had a chance to sit down with him at length and look at the economics of the program. It's all got to work and be economically feasible for both the owner and the operator."
In recent years, competition from repair chains such as Midas, Jiffy Lube and Precision Tune has made it difficult for gasoline station operators to stay afloat, Mr. Hunter told the Appeals Board.
Although Mr. White is doing well with his service operation now, he may have trouble paying the increased rent that Exxon will charge to pay for station improvements, Mr. Hunter said.
Besides doing away with the service bays, plans for the 21-year-old station call for replacing six single-nozzle gasoline pumps with four automated pumps, each capable of taking credit and debit cards and delivering three grades of fuel. The station will also replace fuel storage tanks with safer ones, Mr. Hunter said.