I try to not trade in rumors, but this is one that has been confirmed by two three sources.
Charlottesville may soon have two fewer Markets, and two more national chains. The homogenization continues. What a loss for Charlottesville.
The beauty of the Markets – gourmet gas stations which really are “ironically delicious ” – the original one at Bellair, the newest one on 29 at the corner of Greenbrier, the one at Hydraulic and 29, the one on 5th Street Extended and the ones at Forest Lakes and Mill Creek – is that they are decidedly Charlottesville. They are gas stations that serve great sandwiches. Roast beef? Good pasta and potato salad? And they’re clean and inviting and great to go to.
I received this email over the weekend from a customer of the Markets: (Note to Tiger Fuel: If I’m wrong, please correct me)
I recently discovered Tiger Fuelâ€™s Forest Lakes Market will close. I had heard the rumor and asked at the store if it was true â€“ yes, the company is selling the store to 7-11!
Some of my more immediate complaints: there goes my lunch spot; no more Mudhouse(?!). Why sell this wonderful store? Why would a local business, asking us to support locally, sell to a national corporation? On the outside itâ€™s just another gas station with signs telling me about their Pepsi promotions. Why not advertise the things that make you special; the food, the espresso? I know the store has been around a while and that part of town has only grown commercially with very few new homes. But why back out now? Do you agree that area is due for the next big home growth once the market is back in sync?
And even worse is that Charlottesville/Albemarle is already expanding much like Northern Virginia, especially the 29N area. The drive is just one national business after another. From Loweâ€™s to Wal-Mart to McDonalds to another of each just up the road. Am I in Charlottesville or Manassas? Forest Lakes Market is the type business that separates Charlottesville from other places. Itâ€™s what gives that neighborhood something special. Iâ€™d guess it gives a realtor (and home buyer) something to claim as his own. I doubt a 7-11 does the same. Boo-hoo Tiger Fuel.
I’m glad I copied the bulk of this article in 2005 from the New York Post because their link is bad:
While itâ€™s an unlikely culinary revolution, Slim Jims are making way for sushi as gas station convenience stores transform themselves with upscale eats and shed their image as junk food pit stops.
Itâ€™s an attempt by the industry to discourage the gas-up-and-go mentality and bolster the bottom line with artisanal cheeses, freshly baked breads and high-end meals that entice consumers to linger and eat â€” and to do it often.
â€œWeâ€™re trying to make these stores destinations rather than convenience stops,â€ said Stuart Lowry, marketing director for The Markets of Tiger Fuel, a Virginia convenience chain that offers fresh seafood, a fancy deli and professional chefs.
As I said then:
The Charlottesville area has had these for over a decade. Roast beef, fantastic sandwiches, wine, microbrews, coffee kiosks â€¦ My clients are usually blown away when we stop by a â€œgourmet gas stationâ€!
While I share some of the writer’s sentiments, I’d rather focus on their current contributions to the economy and to the culture of Charlottesville for the past 20+ years as a resident, customer and Realtor in Charlottesville. My clients, to a person, love the Markets, and I love taking them there – they are always positively surprised that our gas stations have such great atmospheres (really!) and food.
I may sound a bit elitist, but given the choice between a snack or sandwich and a cup of Mudhouse Coffee at a Market or a chili dog and a fountain drink at a 7-11, I’ll choose the former every day of the week.
There will still be several markets in Charlottesville, but one less piece of Charlottesville on 29 North. You can see Targets, Starbucks, Dairy Queens and Walgreens anywhere. The Market is a piece of Charlottesville.
* Updated: I had the second Market wrong – it’s the Hydraulic rather than Mill Creek location.
Update #2 – The Newsplex reports on the pending 7-11 deal.
From the Newsplex comments:
Steve, thanks for your comment. Tiger went to great pains to explain to me that this isn’t a “sale”. They’re simply leasing their store space to 7-11 to brand and manage. That doesn’t mean some of the issues you mention won’t surface but just want to point out that Tiger says this isn’t necessarily permanent. Jim, the Newsplex News Director