Hancock is site of gas war

January 30, 1998


Staff Writer

HANCOCK - Motorists are finding it pays to fill up at gas pumps in Hancock as stations there continue a three-week-old price war that has cut the cost of a gallon of regular unleaded to as low as 93.9 cents.

"If we go up on the price, we'll be dead in the water," said Wesley Dick, an owner of Euclid Inc., which owns the Lowest Price gas station across from Sheetz in Hancock.

"You have to be competitive, otherwise you have an empty parking lot," Dick said.

Sheetz, Lowest Price and Gary's gas stations on the west end of Main Street were charging 94.9 cents for regular Thursday, and the prices have dipped as low as 93.9 cents. That compares to prices of around $1.10 in Hagerstown.


"It looks like the independents are trying to compete with the big boys," said Town Manager Louis O. Close, who said he told town employees to keep their gas tanks full while the price war lasts.

"It's terrible. It hurts everyone's business," said Louis Ross, owner of the BP gas station on the east end of town.

"You've got to make a profit to stay in business and you can't make a profit at these prices," Ross said.

Gary Wheeler, manager of Gary's gas station, said he can't remember the last time gas was so cheap in Hancock.

"This is as bad as it's been," he said. Gary's offers full service at no extra charge.

Lee Fleming, owner of Fleming Oil Co. and the Citgo station next to the BP, said he's losing about 5 cents on every gallon he sells. He said he raised his prices from 95.9 cents to 99.9 cents a gallon for regular because he was losing too much money.

"We'll just ride it out," Fleming said. "All I can do is weather the storm."

Fleming said he's complained to the state about the low prices.

Bob Crawford, the assistant director of the state Motor Fuel Tax Division, said a state commercial law prohibits gas stations from selling gasoline below cost, but said the state's only recourse is to send a letter to the stations involved.

Crawford said station owners could file civil suits if they felt another station was selling gas below cost.

Crawford said he's received complaints about the price war in Hancock and another in Frederick, Md.

Sheetz didn't return phone calls Thursday.

The gas stations' officials dispute who started the price war, but customers said they don't care, as long as prices are lower.

"It's great. That's all I can say," said Robert Barnes of Berkeley Springs, W.Va. Barnes and Kenneth Peck, also of Berkeley Springs, said they now come to Hancock two or three times a week to fill up their vehicles with cheap gas.

Margaret Boles, a resident of Prince George's County, Md., often visits her son in Berkeley Springs and said she's made it a point to stop for gas in Hancock.

"I hope the gas war keeps going," she said. Boles said she's used to paying $1.19 to $1.25 a gallon for regular at home.

"I like it," said Harry Deremer of Magnolia, W.Va. "I hope they stay this low. I reckon I could buy a bigger car."

Arthella Ganoe said she usually goes to Gary's because of the full service, but is happy the prices are lower.

"Us old women don't like to pump gas," said Ganoe, 66.

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