Out & About

The gas wars

No sooner does the new Safeway on Mangrove unveil its gas station than the owner of the Arco AM PM franchise at East Avenue and The Esplanade gets a marketing idea: If Safeway shoppers can save 3 or 6 cents by showing their club card at the Safeway station, why not offer the same deal at their place?

Jerry Gabbard, Safeway’s fuel station manager, didn’t seem to mind much but thought it was kind of weird, since “they really don’t have the technology to work our card. … The Safeway card is a Safeway thing.”

It turns out Arco AM PM owner Gary Lewis has personal as well as business reasons for matching wits with the corporate grocer: He’s the guy whose proposal for a station down the street from Safeway was shot down by the city. “We don’t have a big supermarket behind us,” Lewis said of his franchise. “That Safeway easily made six more gas stations unprofitable forever.”

This all could be interesting for consumers, who are usually the beneficiaries of increased competition in a market—in the short run. The average gas price in the state is $1.63 a gallon, according to the American Automobile Association.

Here’s a sampling of some of Chico’s gas prices last week:

Station Unleaded per gallon**

Safeway on Mangrove $1.40*

Arco AM PM $1.40*

7-Eleven Citgo, Forest Ave. $1.42

Texaco, Nord & W. Lindo $1.42

Sportsman’s 76 on Nord $1.44

Tower Mart, Nord & East $1.39

Beacon at East & Esplanade $1.40

Chevron at Connors Ave. $1.46

Eric’s Gasoline on Mangrove $1.40

Shell at Mangrove & 1st $1.42

* Subtract 3 or 6 cents if you have the Safeway Club Card

** Gas stations always end their prices in ".9," so we took the liberty of rounding up.