O&A Masthead

Colorado News —
October 2021

Columnist — Joyce Trent

DENVER — Some Coloradans last summer must have thought they had been transported "Wizard of Oz"-like to California as an unprecedented surge in the state's gasoline prices came to exceed the national average.

The average street price of a gallon of unleaded reached $3.63, with at least one city — Colorado Springs — topping off at $3.69, $1.24 higher than the same time last year. The highest street price was $3.99. The national average was $3.18.

Industry experts blamed it partly on Colorado's success in luring back tourists.

Colorado flag

"As travel demand comes back, increasingly, Americans are heading westward," said Skyler McKinley, regional director of public affairs for AAA Colorado. "Denver was in the top three destinations listed over the Fourth of July weekend. Americans are road-tripping here, demand is way up, and we're pretty far from supply."

He predicted prices would come down in the Fall with the end of the travel season. So did Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis for GasBuddy. "The tide may soon turn on gas prices, so long as we don't see hurricanes target the country." Soon after his statement a hurricane was making its way up the East Coast.

Another factor specialists cite is the inability of gasoline retailers to get product because of a supplier driver shortage. A fuel trucking company executive blamed it on the extra unemployment benefits people are receiving, lessening the incentive to go to work. "I'm okay with unemployment benefits in certain situations like being laid off. The problem with the State of Colorado is they give unemployment for any reason at all and it gets taken advantage of," said Mike Knowles, owner of Knowles Transportation.

He estimates his company is spending around $10,000 a month to recruit help. In 18 years in business he said he has never had so much trouble finding drivers.

"Right now, not having the drivers, we're turning away work. If you have no one to drive and you can't get people to maintain the vehicles it is a losing situation."

When pipelines shut down it aggravates the problem, he said.

He had to increase salaries, which raised the cost of his fuel and resulted in higher prices at the pump.

DENVER — Well, here's a first.

Colorado Republican leaders held a press conference at a Sinclair gasoline station to outline their new state agenda and blame Democrats for high fuel prices and polluted air.

While some questioned the advisability of unveiling the Republican platform at a gasoline station with a dinosaur for a logo, the party chair said the site was chosen to highlight what Democrats had done to the average person's budget.

"In November of 2020 a gallon of gas at this station cost $2.19," said Kristi Burton-Brown. "It is now $3.69." The press conference was overshadowed by air so foul that she said the day before Denver received a ranking of the most polluted city in the world and she asked, "Who's in charge of Denver? Who's in charge of Colorado? The Democrats. They have been in control for a decade. It's their problem."

Station owner Scott Paulson, a former Republican now registered as unaffiliated, disputed both claims. "It's not that simple. I don't think you can blame today's air quality on any political policies. It's smoke from the forest fires." And, he said, "Democrats are not solely responsible for prices. It's complicated. The economy shut down, more people are driving, and demand has cranked up so much the industry has had a hard time catching up."

He also said if fuel distributors can make more money in one state than another they will focus on it.

The state lawmakers ranked three goals as topping their agenda: rolling back new fees, taxes, and regulations; more funding for public safety; and school choice. Conserving the environment was listed as fourth.

Legislation aimed at funding the infrastructure crisis raised the gasoline tax by two cents a gallon, increasing each year. The state also allowed for tightening of regulation of the oil and gas industry.

State House Minority Leader Hugh McKean said, "It is warm, but that's what Colorado does in the summer. It gets warm." Asked by a reporter if that is his message on climate issues, he replied, "Climate change is real. We have to figure it out and what we actively can do to effect that."

Burton-Brown added, "We believe in clean air and water, but don't believe in kicking the energy industry out of the state."

Station owner Paulson said he struggles to make a decent profit even with the high price of gasoline. Of the $3.69 cents motorists pay for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline he said he makes only 25 cents. That is further reduced by other expenses related to the sale.

Paulson said some have suggested that if the price is lowered he could just sell more candy bars. "You can't make a good profit by selling candy. You have to make money at the pump too."

Although he is now registered as unaffiliated, he told reporters he still leans toward the Republican Party. He said he agreed to host the event because, "I want my party back. I want normalcy."

LAKEWOOD — Autowash Express recently opened its sixteenth car wash in Colorado.

The business celebrated by offering free washes all day. Other giveaways included four tickets to a Colorado Rockies baseball game, popcorn and drinks. Otto, the Autowash mascot, made an appearance.

Autowash debuted in Denver in 2013 and rapidly grew to be one of the largest car wash companies in the state, with washes extending from Fort Collins to Denver.

"Our team is excited to to open this new location with our industry-leading soaps and personal touch," said CEO Dennis Dreeszen.

WALSENBURG — Love's Travel Stops opened its seventeenth location in Colorado, adding 50 jobs in the community.

It is open around-the-clock and features 11,000 square feet containing parking spots for 46 trucks, 61 cars, and nine RVs. It has six diesel bays, six showers, and laundry facilities.

COLORADO SPRINGS — This guy deserves the title of Shoplifter of the Year.

Police said a man committed 15 thefts at convenience stores over a period of a few weeks.

Usually the suspect would make a beeline for the back of the counter and stuff cartons of cigarettes into a trash bag, then hotfoot it to the door before the clerk could react. Chad Hobson was arrested.

The price of cigarettes has gone up dramatically in Colorado so that may have been his incentive.

COLORADO SPRINGS — First it was carjackings. Now there are gang shoot-outs at gasoline stations here.

The latest occurred in mid-afternoon on the southeast side of town. No one was injured despite the exchange of gunfire.

The shoot-out began, according to witnesses, when a man and woman walked up to the front of the Loaf 'N' Jug and started firing toward the store and a black sedan parked in front of it. Two men then emerged from the vehicle and returned fire. All four fled before police arrived, the first two on foot, the targeted two in the car. The front of the store was damaged as was a nearby car.

COLORADO SPRINGS — Sometimes it seems as if there is a car wash on every corner. More are coming.

Quick Quack Car Wash is planning a fifth area store on the north side of town. Tommy's Express Car Wash expects to open its first car wash here in October on the south side. Big Splash Car Wash opened its first one here in December on the site of an old restaurant building that was razed and has purchased a record store in the central area where it will tear down the building and construct a car wash scheduled to open next year. Carlo Car Wash is a new entry. It has one under construction in the downtown area.

They will join several familiar local, regional and national operators, among them, Water Works Express, CAR Wash USA Express, The Hub, and 7th Wave, along with specialty facilities that combine car and dog washing, such as 5Star and the new Super Suds.

The trend is nationwide.

Although it costs millions of dollars to build and equip, after a few years car washes are a "real money-maker," said Matt Brunk, operations manager for Carlo Car Wash.

"In a restaurant you've got a lot of labor costs. At a car wash the equipment is doing most of the work."

Investors are taking notice and spurring the expansion.

Colorado Springs, in particular, is an attractive location, say industry experts.

The population is exploding, especially on the east side. It is common for several businessmen to be competing for the same spot to plant a car wash.

The weather provides a lot of business, often changing hour to hour. In the winter there is the snow with an occasional blizzard and the roads are treated with magnesium chloride to keep them dry, but this eats away at the underbodies of cars. Summer offers late afternoon rains and flooded streets.

Most of the new car washes in the city are tunnel washes. Others include full-service systems similar to tunnel washes but offering employee cleaning, automated washes where vehicles pass through a conveyor belt to be washed and dried without help, and the self-serve common to convenience stores.

Originally published in the October 2021 issue of the O&A Marketing News.
Copyright 2021 by KAL Publications Inc.

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