'Convenient' stores face future without regular GM customers

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Thursday, December 18, 2008
— When more than 1,200 workers at General Motors walk out of the assembly plant for the last time Tuesday it will forever change the neighborhood business community.

"It's going to have a huge affect on our business," said Ed Francois, owner of the Jackson Street Citgo, 1002 S. Jackson St., corner of Delavan Drive.

"Without those employees—customers—coming in and out of the GM plant, that will drop the traffic on the road that we depend on," he said.

Francois estimated that 40 percent of his business comes from GM workers, and he sees no way to make up for the loss.

"We're always depending on that traffic, on that street, from neighbors and businesses," he said.

"But without the GM plant operating, that's going to be a huge reduction in traffic at that intersection," he said.

To keep the fuel and convenience store open, Francois said he'll have to cut costs, including payroll.

"That'll be the only way we can make it," he said.

Francois said business has declined with employment at GM.

"As the plant volume went down, so did the workers and so did the traffic that I depend on," Francois said.

Ed Hookham, owner of Jack & Dick's Feed & Garden, 975 S. Jackson St., said the end of SUV production at GM will "definitely have some impact" on his 30-year-old business.

Hookham said GM employees probably make up about 10 percent of his store customers, who stop in for convenience to pick up bags of water softener salt, pet food, feed for hobby animals, bird seed, bird feeders or garden-related merchandise.

"We'll miss those (GM) employees who won't be in our neighborhood anymore, and it will have an affect," Hookham said.

A person stocking shelves at Zachow's Bar, 411 W. State St., said the business "will be fine" even though some of GM's current 1,200 workers employees are patrons.

Owner Andy Segwell, "does pretty good," the man said.

The Janesville Gazette was not able to reach Segwell for comment.

Young Hong, owner of Dan's Shoe Sales & Repair, 974 S. Jackson St., said he would be fine because his store doesn't rely only on GM workers.

"Nothing changes. Everything same," said Hong, who has been in business since 1989.

Francois remains hopeful in light of all the economic doom and gloom.

"We just have to wait and see what happens and develops with GM in the future or with its successor to the property. I think Janesville/Rock County has a tremendous workforce. I just hope someone sees it as a jewel and comes in and takes over."

Last updated: 10:00 am Monday, December 17, 2012

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