By Konstantine Fekos
The question has circulated around Meadville for over a year now: How can All-American Gas Station and Car Wash afford to be 10 cents cheaper than its competitors?
The lone, independent station sitting at the crest of Route 322 near the Interstate 79 interchange has been owned and operated by local company Travaglini Enterprises for several years and plateaued financially by early 2012, according to Don Fagley, vice president of operations.
“Our former president, Alan Travaglini, had an idea around February of last year,” he said. “If we were able to maintain our cost of gas at a dime less, it would benefit our customers and generate more traffic for our car wash.”
One year later and 10 cents cheaper, All-American representatives reported an all-time boom in car washes and gas sales with lines pouring out into the street, a testament to the late Travaglini’s success.
All of this, coupled with a $5 car wash on Mondays and Wednesdays, makes it easy to see how company overseers can use words like “phenomenal” and “monumental” to describe the additional consumership.
“The success was twofold; we just about quadrupled our traffic,” Fagley continued. “It became our standard, our philosophy, to try and maintain a dime under major corporations.”
All-American’s independent status is what allows flexibility in making these kinds of decisions.
“We’re fortunate we can make decisions like that on our own,” Fagley said. “If we were part of a franchise, I’m not sure we’d be able to do that.”
As the company rounded its first year since the price drop, car wash usage has increased as well, although gasoline still retains the higher sales percentage.
While daily traffic is vastly weather-dependent, reports indicate traffic levels between 400 and 500 cars for the wash alone on All-American’s busiest days.
Managers can’t even begin to count the cars circling for gas.
While a win-win situation for company and community sounds too good to be true, the only drawback to All-American’s fresh popularity seems to overshadow part of what made it unique.
“With self-service kind of taking over, our full-service is dwindling,” Fagley said. “We struggled with that; full-service has always been part of our identity.”
The convenience of full-service usually costs a nickel over the posted price of unleaded. Travaglini Enterprises doesn’t intend to part with its All-American personality, but it hinted at possibly taking a small hit and cutting the extra charge.
“The sheer volume of customers offsets the cheaper price,” Fagley said. “It works out for everybody. The customer gets a better price, and we even out at the end of the day. Sometimes we even make a little more.”
That additional kick may inspire the company’s board of directors to improve its business structurally, Fagley added.
“Right now we’re still in the planning stages, but we continue to talk about upgrading some of our equipment and making property improvements, primarily based on the way our promotion has been received by the community,” he said.
Employees on and off-site report an overwhelmingly positive response, as proven by the traffic and the recognition of regular customers by the station attendants.
“Monday and Wednesdays are definitely our busiest days,” said Merle Gisewhite, station manager. “It can get tied up here for hours.”
“I know when Alan initially started doing it, people would stop him on the street and thank him for doing that for the community,” Fagley said. “I think people are just surprised a company would do something like that.”
All-American’s promotion is no temporary deal. As long as the price difference is upheld, company representatives are confident the public will take notice.
“My thoughts are we’ll continue to be strong and continue to maintain our share of the market,” Fagley said. “I’d say we’ll continue to build on that as time goes on.”
Did you know?
Travaglini Enterprises owns and operates a variety of businesses, including Golfview Manor and Imperial Gardens apartment complexes in Meadville; Chovy’s! Italian Casual Restaurant, Holiday Inn Express and Econo Lodge in Vernon Township; other hotels in the area, including Comfort Inn & Suites near Edinboro and the Quality Inn & Suites and Super 8 motels in suburban Erie near Presque Isle Downs & Casino; and more hotels in Ohio and New York.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.