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GAS, HOUSE

South Boston News
It's a gas station – it's a domicile ... Unique station getting rebuilt
SoVaNow.com / March 26, 2012

It’s landmark. It’s a curiosity …. And people really do live there.

The Quality Plus gas station, across from Wal-Mart, was razed last week for remodeling. It should re-open in about four weeks with a new stick-built house, an additional pump island and new landscaping, a corporate spokesman says.

The new house will be just that — a house — unlike some other Quality stations with convenience stores and even automobile-service bays.

Quality put up the old modular house in Centerville 1973 — just two years after Quality built its first Gas House in Danville.

“When we built there it was out in the country,” says Quality spokesman Ernie Rhymer. (No high school, no old Lowe’s, no Double Bubbles and certainly no Walmart — it faced a field with a white fence.) Today, the location enjoys one of the highest traffic counts in the county, and Quality operates 50 Gas Houses, mostly in North Carolina.

On busy days, Old Halifax Road would see back-ups as motorists — perhaps attracted by the location, the competitive prices or the speedy pumps — queued up to turn in. Another island will help accommodate demand, Rhymer says.

Quality operates more traditional stations (some with car washes and wine shops), he says — but South Boston will stick with the Gas House template.

The live-in Gas House model is a unique one, Rhymer concedes. Very few chains anywhere use it, though it seems to work for Quality: Every motorist pumps his own gas and either pays at the pump with plastic or rolls up to the window to pay (with the option of buying some smokes).

Danville’s first Gas House tenant/operator stayed for 35 years. In some cases, Gas House managers keep a separate residence. Often, operators are husband-wife teams who share the responsibility but hire an extra person or two to be there when they can’t: Gas Houses are open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Sometimes the company favors retired folks; sometimes single 20-somethings.

Company headquarters is in Winston-Salem, N.C.

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