The protective chain link fence came down late this week as construction crews wrapped things up, and if all goes according to plan, the newly rebuilt AGO Citgo Service Station and Convenience Store in downtown St. Joseph will return to service this Monday, April 29th. Keep in mind, however, that was the target, and not an official opening announcement.
Clerks at the Southtown AGO identified Monday as the target, but said that work was still wrapping up on the kitchen portion of the new building at 220 Main Street across from the Post Office. The new and expanded format of the convenience store downtown will reportedly include things like fried or broasted chicken and fries among other convenience foods.
Commuters, downtown workers, and others who had grown accustomed to a pit stop at the center of town have been without their morning coffee fix and fill up since late October when the perimeter fence was installed by contractors who followed a few days later with bulldozers to completely remove the old structure to make way for a completely new building.
The striking red facade with flagstone fascia and canopied entrance pillars is nearly identical to the renovation work down at Napier & Niles in the Southtown neighborhood for the first of the three makeovers at the properties owned by American Gas & Oil. The downtown version is slightly larger than the Southtown building, due to the inclusion of a kitchen in the footprint.
The demolition and reconstruction project has been underway for just over half a year -- 27 weeks -- since work began last fall. That's nearly twice as long as the renovation of the first project which took 14 weeks. It had been projected to take 6 to 8 weeks. Contractors and oil company executives never placed a guesstimate for the downtown rebuild.
Except for this construction project time out, there's been a gasoline service station at 220 Main Street in downtown for decades. In fact, it was once the business enterprise of a former mayor of the City of St. Joseph and former owner Rolf Ovik ran the business for 44 years.
The entire site was completely enclosed in temporary chain link cyclone fencing throughout the reconstruction process.
The stem to stern makeover at the Niles Avenue convenience store resulted in the elimination of the car wash facility there, and a gutted building that went almost down to the stud walls to start over. Stripped to the bare walls and rebuilt from top to bottom, the AGO convenience store now gleams from wall to wall and ceiling to floor. New restrooms were added, a walk-in beer cave is now part of the building where the car wash once stood, and the building has a completely new look with the same soaring entry marked by pillars, a sleek coffee island at the center of the store and an expanded beverage station offering not only soft drinks, but on-demand smoothies in a variety of flavors.
Similar amenities have been built into the new downtown version, making things brighter, cleaner and more efficient for customers and clerks alike.
American Gas & Oil, headquartered in Sparta, Michigan, also owns the AGO Citgo at Niles Road and I-94 in St. Joseph Township. That station will be the final project of the three and work is expected to begin on that operation some time this fall. American Gas & Oil has reportedly purchased a substantial tract of land at that interchange and clerks say that the service station and car wash facility there will also be bulldozed to make way for a full-scale truck stop and convenience store with expanded parking capacity for semi-tractor trailers on site. That station, located at 3176 Niles Road, will be the largest of the three operations when work is completed.
American Gas & Oil first converted 19 gas stations across West Michigan to the Citgo brand from BP Amoco properties starting in the summer of 2014, which at that point resulted in 27 AGO Citgo branded stations. At that point American Gas & Oil President Jason Berris was thrilled with the Citgo partnership calling the oil company, "A huge supporter of locally owned businesses." He also appreciated the opportunity "to offer fair pricing, the convenience of local terminals and a commitment to community involvement."
If Monday's targeted opening gets pushed back by final punch list items, it shouldn't be much longer, so stay tuned.