The White House Mobil, located at 15th and U Streets NW, is out of gas. The pumps at the site are cordoned off by a huge chain-link fence, and workmen are busy drilling behind the barrier. The service station has been essentially stripped of its raison d’être—even the air machine sports an “Out of Order” sign.
But since the station shut down its pumps on March 29 for renovations, says Mauricio Aleman, a manager for Woodbridge-based station dealer E&C Enterprises, sales at Mobil haven’t slowed at all. “When it shut down, we weren’t sure,” Aleman says of the store’s sales figures. “But we were surprised….People love the store.”
Andre LeBlanc, director of people and resources for E&C, says in his experience, shutting off the gas spells doom for the average c-store. But, he says, “this case is an anomaly.”
LeBlanc attributes the store’s success to its popularity among cab drivers: “Oh man, are they our friends.”
Columbia Heights hack Solomon Araya says he has been getting his gas at the Lowest Price station at 14th and W since the Mobil cut off its fuel supply, but he still comes in regularly to pick up food and his newspaper. “Look at the store-�everything we need is here,” Araya says, motioning to the coffee station, Krispy Kreme display, and rows and fridges filled with snacks and drinks.
“And it’s convenient,” he adds. The Mobil is cleaner, larger, and better stocked than most other gas-station shops in the area, and it’s one of the few places in the neighborhood where one can pick up sundries without parking on the street. At the 7-Eleven down the street, for instance, parking at the wrong time might mean either risking a double-parking ticket or going for a five-block stroll.
“We’ll keep coming,” Araya says. “Location, location, location.”