Jim Shelly made the difficult decision to leave the Sag Harbor Getty gas and service station because he had no choice, he said Monday. Being assigned a fuel supplier that charges just “three to five cents less than what Hess is pumping it for,” there is no way for an independent retailer to make money there, he said.
Sometimes, he added, the wholesale price is even more than that. On a holiday weekend in July, he paid 11 cents more than what Hess was selling gas for at its nearby stations. Mr. Shelly will now focus his energy and expertise on his Georgica Services garage in East Hampton, he said, but his goodbye to Sag Harbor also meant having to let five employees go.
The Sag Harbor station is one of the hundreds owned by Getty Realty. When Getty’s gasoline interests were purchased by another corporation in 1997, Getty exited the fuel business, later claiming bankruptcy in 2012. Getty Realty recently signed a 10-year lease making Alliance Energy the sole provider of gasoline to the Sag Harbor station and 119 other Getty locations.
Mr. Shelly, who had operated the Sag Harbor Getty since 2005, tried for nine months to negotiate a reasonable lease, but the numbers were “ridiculous,” he said, at more than $75,000 per year, combined with the non-negotiable fuel prices.
The rent on the station, according to Mr. Shelly, will be $8,000 a month, and he believes it’s unlikely another operator would be interested in that equation.
Also required for the success of the station is at least a half-million dollars of refurbishing, Mr. Shelley said on Monday. The pumps he worked with had not been upgraded since the 1960s. “The company did not put a dime into the station in 50 years,” he said. The antiquated pumps worked very slowly, he said, meaning he had to have two employees on the payroll for each shift.
It wasn’t always this way, Mr. Shelly said. Back in 1990 when he first went into the gasoline business, he made about a 30-cent-per-gallon profit after rent, electric, phone, insurance, and payroll. Twenty years later, he was coming up $75,000 short.
He said he’s “not a convenience store guy,” but that to turn a profit, the Sag Harbor station might need a store instead of a service garage.
Mr. Shelly was able to bring three employees from Sag Harbor to Georgica Services in East Hampton, which he has owned for 22 years. The repair shop once operated out of the garage at the East Hampton Getty, but has been on Springs-Fireplace Road since 2007. Georgica Getty was a sort of landmark at the entrance to the village, with cars from Julia’s Classic Convertibles parked around the property. When he opened in 1990 after a 20-year career in special effects and theater, he parked the eye-catching cars as a way to show activity at the new business. Requests for repairs on those and other cars became the inspiration for Mr. Shelly’s successful restoration business.
Having retained many of his initial customers, Mr. Shelly works with all makes and models of cars from 1913 to 2013, some worth up to $4 million, he said. He is most proud of his restoration of a 1953 Aston Martin DB2, which was pictured on Mr. Shelly’s business holiday card. While looking at the before and after pictures of the car’s restoration on his Web site, he reminisced fondly on Monday about its owner, Jonathan Auerbach, who died recently.
Mr. Shelly’s team, many of whom have worked with him for 18 or 19 years, provides complete bodywork restorations, repair, painting, and exterior refurbishment including the sourcing, replacing, refurbishing, and remanufacturing of parts. On the interiors, the crew can re-upholster seats and repair or replace carpets, door panels, headliners, and convertible tops, for example. In addition to basic automobile repairs and inspections, Mr. Shelly offers engine rebuilding, brake work, carburetor and fuel injection system replacement, and many upgrades, too.