By Michael Morton/Daily News staff
The MetroWest Daily News
Posted Jun 23, 2010 @ 12:54 AM
Last update Jun 23, 2010 @ 10:19 AM
After a British Petroleum distributor bought his Getty Oil landlord last year, gas station operator Anthony Medri realized the fuel giant's greens and yellows would soon replace his red color scheme.
What the Bellingham resident couldn't know was that the scheduled switchover would come after an unprecedented oil-drilling disaster, a national boycott of BP and an ongoing spat with the distributor over prices.
"There was nothing we could do," said Medri, whose Rte. 9 station had to roll out the BP logo and hues last Wednesday after two days of repainting.
It wasn't supposed to turn out this way. When the distributor, Green Valley Oil of East Providence, R.I., bought local Getty and Lukoil stations, Medri supported the move.
"The assumption when they bought us was we were going to pump more gas, BP was going to be a good name," he said yesterday, still sporting a red Getty T-shirt.
Since coming to the site in 1995, he has leased the station - wedged between Motel 6 and Acapulcos Mexican Restaurant, near Mass. Pike Exit 12, from oil companies. He's been paying $6,000 a month recently.
But selling gas is a marginal business in the best of times, with stations relying heavily on repairs and convenience store sales to turn a profit.
That tenuousness increased, Medri said, when Green Valley took over. He gets to keep 5 1/2 cents of each self-serve gallon pumped and 6 1/2 cents of each full-serve gallon.
Green Valley, the only allowed fuel provider, began charging more than the competition, driving away half his customers, Medri said.
Then there's the massive Gulf oil leak and subsequent boycotts by thousands of angry drivers steering clear of BP products.
"He couldn't have picked a worse time," said customer Bob Bennett of Framingham, explaining that he likes Medri's mechanics but did deliberately go to a different station for gas recently.
Medri realizes the oil leak has tarnished the BP name, but he said it's difficult to know whether to blame that or the higher prices for business being down.
In response, Medri and other BP operators have hired Needham attorney Warren Kirshenbaum to address the pricing complaints. Retailers are often locked into contracts for several years with their supplier.
Kirshenbaum said he has written to the company and is trying to determine the motivation behind its pricing - before deciding if a lawsuit is the next step.
To work as one, BP operators have joined together to create a new regional dealers group. There are BP stations in Northborough, Milford, Bellingham, Franklin, Upton and Uxbridge.
A woman answering the phone for Green Valley said the firm had no comment.
A letter from the company to Kirshenbaum states that its pricing is based on costs and market conditions. The letter says the firm intends to speak with operators individually.
Kirshenbaum said the former Getty and Lukoil operators never chose to become BP stations and now risk losing their franchises because of Green Valley's pricing and the boycott. He said he might help the operators apply for help from the Gulf relief fund.
"They're independent small-business people who have their life savings in these businesses," he said. "The boycott is a double whammy for them."
As she prepared to gas up her minivan yesterday at Medri's station, Margie Sockol explained that she doesn't generally support boycotts.
"It doesn't always hit the target," she said.
Morton, Michael. "Bad Timing for New Framingham BP Station - Framingham, MA - The MetroWest Daily News." MetroWest Daily News, MA News - Framingham, MA - The MetroWest Daily News. 23 June 2010.