From the Buffalo Ruse, where every day is April Fool’s Day:
Published: March 31st, 2010
Mini-mart Giant Reportedly Thrilled To “Probably” Be Coming To Historic Downtown Location.
By Hardy Astrom
Mayor Byron Brown proudly presented the Key to the City to a representative from Gas Pro at a news conference yesterday. Making an announcement at the doors of the moth-balled Statler Hotel, the Mayor proudly addressed a handful of reporters with a promise of hope.
“This is not only the Key to the City of Buffalo,” he said as he handed an over-sized golden key to Gas Pro representative Ron Churchill. “In many ways it is the key to the future of the City of Buffalo.” Mr. Churchill declined to take the microphone from the Mayor, but was heard saying “Thanks a lot” as he accepted the key.
The Mayor’s announcement was not what many in the press had anticipated.
In calling the conference, Brown indicated that he had “a major announcement which will change the economic and employment landscape of the City.” When pressed by reporters on the importance he’s given to what is essentially a small commercial enterprise, Brown responded with enthusiasm. “Many people in this area don’t have appropriate access to basics like gasoline and jerky. Many city residents have fled to the suburbs where spicy hot peanuts and slushy drinks are found on every street corner. We have been left in this city with mostly drug dealers and people who have questionable hygiene.” Brown motioned to several people waiting at a bus stop nearby. “We now have a street corner that will, in essence, be exactly like Clarence, New York. Jump on the bandwagon folks, it’s headed downtown.”
Gas Pro, a small chain with 23 outlets in three states, touts itself as the largest mini-mart in the country. “We actually call it a maxi-mart.” said Gas Pro Vice President of Operations Rocco Distillo in a phone interview. “We’re too big to be ‘mini’ and too free of vegetable matter to be considered a ‘market.’ So we’re a maxi-mart.”
Distillo said he too was surprised by “the intensity” of the Mayor’s press conference. “I’m going to be as clear here as I was with the Mayor: we’re not buying the Statler Building,” said Distillo. “No one would, and we told the Mayor as much when we expressed interest in selling things like Sun Chips and Webkinz in your city. We’re just renting part of the lobby and putting gas pumps in that circle you have there.” Distillo was referring of course to Buffalo’s historic Niagara Square, which encircles the McKinley Monument and is situated directly in front of City Hall.
The Buffalo Ruse questioned the Mayor on this development late last night, after he returned from his out-of-state headquarters in Raleigh, North Carolina. “To my knowledge there will be very little done to the square that will change its landmark status,” said the Mayor. “Traffic flow will not be compromised because of the circular nature of the square.”
Brown said that Gas Pro’s fuel pumps will be located around the perimeter of the circle, and parking for the ‘maxi-mart’ will be available in a soon-to-be erected parking ramp. The location of the ramp has not yet been determined, though Brown noted that “some downtown buildings will be asked to leave.”
Neither Distillo nor the Mayor was able to give a time line or completion date for the project.
“Gas Pro is already part of the local landscape,” Brown said. “Almost literally, it’s here. They researched a home for their next neighborhood store and they chose Buffalo, New York. We look to have the paperwork finalized in the next little while, and to break ground no later than on an agreed-upon date that will be worked out in the not-too-distant future.”
Distillo was equally committal. “We’re still drawing things up and doing some fact checking. This isn’t something we rush into. But I wouldn’t go knocking Buffalo buildings down any time soon, either.”
If you like that, check out Frank Brutus’s piece on the mayor’s new contest: “Where’s Byron?”