Residents oppose plan, not the man Though Tevis is liked, aim for gas station, stores downtown isn't popular

September 18, 1995|By Donna R. Engle | Donna R. Engle,SUN STAFF

Even critics who disagree with Stanley H. "Jack" Tevis III's plan to put a gas station and small grocery store in downtown Westminster have nothing negative to say about the man himself.

Mr. Tevis, 48, the third generation of his family to head Tevis Oil Inc., a local heating oil and gasoline business, has a reputation as a nice guy. He also has a reputation as an astute businessman who is quick to spot an opportunity and turn it into dollars.

His plan to put a gas station and large convenience or small grocery store on the Farmers Supply Co. Inc. property at Liberty and West Green streets sparked a public debate over what downtown Westminster should become. The 1-acre property is the largest unused site in the central core. It was identified as key to Westminster's revitalization in a 1994 study.

Mr. Tevis invited the debate with a full-page newspaper advertisement that invited people to a meeting on the site to discuss the plan. He has a contract to buy the property, which has been on the market for six years.

About 300 people have signed petitions opposing the plan for a gas station, large convenience store or small grocery store, a Subway sandwich shop and a Baskin-Robbins or similar ice cream franchise. The plan also calls for retail shops in a separate building.

"This has never been about personalities," said Karen Loats, a West Green Street resident and Westminster native who opposes Mr. Tevis' plan. "The problem we have is not with Jack on a personal level or his business. We just think this is not an appropriate use."

Mr. Tevis said he wanted to be sure people understood his plan and how it would attempt to fit into downtown. The sketch he presented shows brick walkways to fit in with downtown's historic appearance and excludes the "Jiffy Mart" logo on his other convenience stores. But it includes Shell Oil Co. metal canopies over the gas pumps and would have signs visible from Main Street.

Gas pumps and the 24-hour convenience store operation have drawn the sharpest criticism. Mr. Tevis said gasoline sales are essential to the project, but told residents he would consider operating for 19 hours rather than around the clock.

"We need and want feedback, even if it's negative," Mr. Tevis said.

The plan for the Farmers Supply property mixes the roles Mr. Tevis plays in the community -- Westminster native, son of a prominent local family, business owner, member of the Greater Westminster Development Corp., an organization formed to attract and support businesses.

He has wanted the site since 1992, when he first had a contract to buy it. But he offered to yield the property to an office building.

Mr. Tevis' reputation as a nice guy goes way back.

Attorney Marc Rasinsky, who went to kindergarten with him, described him as "probably one of the most positive people I know . . . He doesn't speak unkindly of anyone. He has a lot of integrity and is totally honest."

When he graduated from Gilman School in Baltimore in 1966, the yearbook said his "amiable manners and general good nature have made him well-liked and have helped him to get things done."

He majored in science at the University of Pennsylvania, got mugged three times but still preferred a city campus to a rural one. When he decided to go into dentistry, he chose University of Maryland dental school.

Mr. Tevis was a dental student when his father died in 1974 . Stanley H. Tevis Jr. had joined his father in the heating oil business in 1933, took it over in 1945 and partially retired in 1965.

Dorothy Tevis ran the business while her son finished dental school and worked part time at Tevis Oil. After graduating in 1977, he tried a strenuous schedule, part time in the family business and part time in a Westminster dental practice.

One of his patients was a teacher who made an appointment just a few weeks before Dr. Tevis gave up his practice in 1979 to join the family business full time.

"If I'd waited another month, we would never have met," said Beth Tevis. It worked out well. She didn't have any cavities, they discovered they lived in the same apartment complex, and he called her about a month later for a date. They were married in 1981.

Under Jack Tevis' stewardship, the business grew from 15 to 125 employees. The company opened Modern Comfort Systems, which services heating and air-conditioning systems, added Jiffy Marts and opened additional gas stations.

Mr. Tevis now is president of the company. His mother is chairwoman of the board.

Jack Tevis started as a workaholic, his wife said, but has changed.

"One of the things that is really neat about Jack is that when he sees a problem with something he does, he makes an effort to change himself," Beth Tevis said.

He makes an effort to be there for the children, she said. Victoria is 10, Andrew is 8.

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