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East County Wednesday, Jul. 7, 2010 7 years ago

Creekwood BP owner battles Deepwater spill stigma

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

CREEKWOOD — Kevin Headlee’s shop is filled with hundreds of items stocked for convenience — chips and snacks for road trips, cold drinks and other treats.

But these days, it’s been hard to attract customers.

Headlee, an East County resident, has been struggling since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion April 20 in the Gulf of Mexico. His BP gas station in Creekwood Crossing has seen an average drop in business of 20-30%, depending on the day.

“We began to see an immediate change (after the spill),” Headlee said. “It’s been a progressive loss, and it hasn’t bottomed out yet.”

In fact, the last week in June proved to be the station’s slowest to date.

But as Headlee points out and is trying to raise awareness, he is a local business owner who sells BP oil he purchases through a distributor, Risser Oil. His station is not a corporately owned store, and any boycott of BP impacts him and not the oil producer. The other local BP stations are in the same situation.

“I understand people wish to make a protest, but I would ask them to please reconsider the boycott of a local business and try to find another way to boycott that directly affects (BP),” he said. “We’re just as frustrated and horrified at this whole thing (as anybody else is).”

Headlee said even if East County residents choose to boycott BP oil, they can still frequent his store — and other local BP stations — for other purchases, whether food from Dunkin Donuts, stamps at the post office or drinks, car washes or snacks and other items from the shop itself.

Headlee said he is glad BP has taken responsibility for the cleanup from the first day of the spill, even if the company still does not know what caused the accident or how to stop the leak.

“They said they are going to make it right,” he said.

Headlee has had to make changes to ensure the business stays afloat. He trimmed employee hours— the equivalent of three full-time positions or 120 hours a week — since the spill.

“If the customers aren’t here, I can’t pay people,” he said. “You do what you have to do to survive.”

And although a 20% cut in sales may not seem like much, the reduction is on top of the decline in business that has occurred since the economy slowed.

“We’ve had half our business go away in the last year,” he said.

BP has started a local advertising campaign on behalf of its distributors as a way to attract business for its independent distributors.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

You can tell whether a BP gas station is independently or corporately owned by its signage. If the price sign or storefront has the word “shop” on it, then that station is owned by a private individual and purchases BP oil through a distributor.

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