SEAVIEW — Longtime customers may have been surprised when the Seaview Shell station changed — almost overnight — into the Seaview Mobil station.
But for owner Mark Whitman it’s been a change a year in the making.
Whitman and his wife Vicki have owned the station since 2007 when they bought it from the original owner, who founded it in 1980. For more than 30 years, the station operated under the Shell name. When Shell proved unwilling to facilitate needed updates to the station, however, Whitman decided it was time to move forward with another company.
About a year before his contract with Shell was set to expire, Whitman reached out to the company to discuss renewing the agreement and scheduling updates for the 35-year-old station, he said. Shell remained largely unresponsive though and six months later he called again and told them that while he would rather remain a Shell station, he would also be reaching out to other companies to compare offers.
Over the following months Whitman negotiated with both Shell and ExxonMobil. Mobil’s offer included updates like new signs and a new coat of paint on the building, Whitman said, and proved to be significantly more attractive than Shell’s offer.
Even when Shell improved their offer to compete with Mobil, it still fell short of what Whitman was looking for to stay with the company.
Once he decided to make the switch, planning was everything, he said.
“Starting around May 15 we started sitting down and having meetings saying, ‘OK now what are the steps, what’s the sequence, how are we supposed to do this, can we do (one update) at the same time that we’re doing (another)?’ It was great,” Whitman said.
That planning culminated in a three-day blitz shortly after the Fourth of July to transition everything from signs to computer systems over to Mobil.
“There were guys painting the canopy while there were other people painting the store and then there was another guy that took all the Shell decals off the Mobil pumps,” Whitman said.
Workers were scheduled down to the hour during the transition, and, when it came time to change the computer systems over, Mobil workers installed their system just behind the Shell workers removing the previous one. The system was down for around 45 minutes, Whitman said, and even then customers could still buy gas and items from the convenience store with cash.
He didn’t — and still doesn’t — hold any hard feelings against Shell, he said, but it simply made more business sense to make the switch to working with Mobil.
Initially Whitman was worried that the changed signs would mean a dropoff in customers, he said, but that hasn’t proven to be an issue — customers who previously used a Shell card at the station have simply switched over to the Mobil.
“We have a very steady crew and our people are friendly and we have a good rapport with the tourists, but also mostly with the locals,” he said.
Despite the changes that came with the transition, the day-to-day challenges of running the station have remained largely the same, Whitman said.
“They’re the same, the challenges are, it’s just under a different brand,” he said.