Williams Express to close

Posted: Thursday, November 06, 2003

The Williams Express gas station off of Egan Drive at 6585 Glacier Highway will close on Nov. 21.

The owners cited competition from local outlets of national grocery store chains that recently opened gas stations.

"It's hard to compete with the big boxes, as we call the Fred Meyers and Safeways or Carrs," said Jeff Cook, vice president of external affairs for Williams Alaska Petroleum, which operates 29 Williams Express gas stations throughout the state.

The company announced the closure of a Fairbanks store last week and an Anchorage store on Tuesday. The Juneau closing likely will be the last Williams store in the state to close for now, Cook said.

"We'll have 26 stores," he said. "This is not a phasing-out plan. It's a very surgical business decision to say if stores aren't individually making money and they can't support themselves, it doesn't make sense to keep them open."

Eight employees with the store will be given severance packages when the store closes. The manager will be transferred to a Williams Express in Anchorage, Cook said.

Many service stations in Juneau are experiencing difficulty dealing with the competition from Fred Meyer and Safeway, said Greg Cole, manager at Capital Service on Glacier Avenue downtown.

"We hear all the talk and the rumors within the industry, so I knew somebody was getting hurt out there," Cole said.

Capital Service has managed to maintain its customers because of its downtown location and the service it offers customers, said Cole. But the station hasn't completely avoided a loss of business from the competition.

"Fred Meyer and Safeway, even if they're only pumping 30,000 gallons a month, that's 60,000 that came from somewhere else," he said. "So yes, it definitely hurts."

Cook of Williams Express also cited the closing of the nearby Kmart and the possible reconfiguration of the Sunny Point intersection on Egan Drive as reasons for the closure.

The state Department of Transportation is working on an environmental impact statement for a project that would shift the Sunny Point access to further south on Egan Drive, in between Williams Express and the Kmart building, instead of right next to the gas station, where the intersection is now, said Sam Kito, the transportation manager for the city.

The reconfiguration will allow traffic from Lemon Creek to turn toward downtown, Kito said. It also will be much safer than the current intersection, he said.

If the plan is approved, construction for the project could begin in 2006, Kito said.

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