Jim Hazel's Citgo Introduces New Convenience Store
(as published in Scene Magazine, Battle Creek, Michigan - Volume 33, Number 5 pages 34 & 35)

James: Hazel Jr. (Jim), the guy we all know and love, and his family have been around for a long time, starting with his
father, James Hazel when he had a Marathon station on Beadle Lake and Golden in 1951. Jim Jr. started working with his dad as a child along with the whole family. They lived in back of the gas station where Roberts Storage is located now. After a period of time, Jim and his dad had two gas stations, with Jim starting out as Pure Oil, then Union 76, and currently, Citgo. Everyone in the family was used to workign long hours. Jim remembers working from 6 am to midnight, even keeping an Army cot and hot plate in the back room.

The Hazel's are proud of the work they have done for their customers. A full service gas station that pumps gas, checks your oil, washes your windows and fills your tires when needed. Jimmy (James Hazel III and Jim's son) is a master mechanic, ASC certified with L-1 certification. Jimmy says fixing cars today requires mechanics who can handle very complicated problems. He says there are over 900 things that could turn on an engine light, just to give you an idea of what he means.

Another benefit of the Hazel's station is their U-Haul rental available seven seven days a week earning them the ranking of #1 in the state numerous times. Along with this, the station is open seven days a week, from 7 am to 10 pm Monday through Saturday and from 9 am to 10 pm on Sundays.

In the 1980's, the Hazels opened their auto parts store. They were way ahead of their time because retail auto parts stores didn't exist for do-it-your-selfers. It also had the added benefit of immediate access to auto parts (including foreign parts) they needed to fix customers' automobiles. Enter the explosion of many others carrying auto parts including national chains with cheaper prices which took niche away, but businesses like the Hazel's don't survive over all these years without the wisdom of knowing when to move on.

Now instead of an auto parts store, that space is a Convenience Store... a very successful Convenience Store. Now instead of auto parts, customers come in for Cappucchinos, coffee, newspapers, tonic water, candy, ice cream, cigarettes, pop, a quick loaf of bread or milk or one of hundreds of "convenience" items. You'll also find roller grill hot dogs so you can eat on the spot. They used to have one of the highest prices on cigarettes, and now due to the ability to purchase quantity, they have one of the lowest. In spite of the high cost gasoline today, gasoline is considered a lost leader and if a customer uses a credit card, it can actually cost the station money rmake it money. The gas station along with qualified mechanics who can fix your automobile professionally, and now with the added Convenience Store that allows their customers quick purchase of virtually hundreds of items, there is a new future for the Hazels.

Jimmy is 100 % involved with the Convenience Store, having literally built the whole store including the cabinets and security system. Jim says Jimmy can thank his involvement in Boy Scouts for this talent. Jimmy became an Eagle Scout at 13 years old. Today, besides building the Convenience Store, Jimmy even built his own house.

He was also smart enough to know he had to learn everything there is to know in this field so he attended seminars and conventions and talked to people in the business. He learned what to stock in the store by working with suppliers, talked to head salespeople and to others in business who helped direct him on what to do. He wants to personally thank Scott Niecko as one of those people who took the time to help him. Jimmy says success with the Convenience Store is getting better every day. He personally has tasted most everything in the store and is happy to say that sales are up tremendously. To make it easier for their gas station customers, they have the same hours.

Does this mean that Jim will start try back off working so many hours? He says he's still up at 5 am every day and only works half time from 6 am to 6 pm and calls that retirement. It's hard to cut back after working so many hours for so many years he says. When he's not there, he's only a phone call away if Jimmy needs him.

Why are they still around after all these years? Jim says it's SERVICE that has kept their customers.. Service Since 1951.

Jim attributes his success also to the value of COLLEGE because it teaches you HOW TO LEARN with the actual learning on the job. Even when Jim's grandson has a problem will his car, Grandpa Jim and Uncle Jimmy don't fix his car, they repair it with him so he learns how to do it. Jim will never forget the organization that gave him an opportunity to go to college, the Binda Foundation. Today, Jim's endowment at the Battle Creek Community Foundation has given 90 scholarships to young people to attend allege. He will also never forget men like Russ Mawby who became mentors to him.

GIVING BACK! We all know the history of Jim's involvement in this community and that he's driven to make a positive difference, and he's not afraid to rub shoulders with those who can help him do that. Jimmy says he has seen every Congressman, both state and federal, come through their doors to talk to his dad. Due to his giving back philosophy, Jim was honored as Scene Magazine's 1996 Man of the Year.

I think the Hazel's success story, from James Hazel, to James Hazel Jr. (Jim), to James Hazel III (Jimmy) will be a huge part of this community's history and people will look back and realize everyone can make a difference as lone as they care enough and work hard to make it happen.

Thank you James, Jim and Jimmy. My family and everyone at Scene Magazine are proud to call you our friend.