Tribal gas station open for businessPublished 12:47pm Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Casino visitors, travelers and Dowagiac residents now have a new location to fuel-up and grub-up, as the Mobil gas station on M-51 is open for business.
The gas station and convenience store, located just south of the Four Winds Dowagiac casino, opened its doors for the very first Friday night, around 6 p.m. Since then, customers have been steadily pouring into the new spot, filling up their cars with fuel and their bellies with snacks and soft drinks.
“We’ve not been slammed, but we have had a lot of people stopping in, some just to check out the store itself,” said Jennifer Deuel, the store manager.
Visitors to the new store can expect the usual assortment of food items, drinks and other fare on the shelves. However, many of the hot dishes customers can grab are a cut above the average convenience store fare, Deuel said.
“We have food from Four Winds chefs,” she said. “Pizzas, cold sandwiches, desserts, brownies, muffins; it’s very good stuff.”
The Pokagon Band, which owns the property, broke ground for construction on June 27, partnering with Seven Generations, Mercer Construction and J&H Oil to complete the project. Construction on the new facility was completed a few weeks ago, with the final inspection being completed only a week ago.
“We did a soft opening to make sure we worked through some technical things before we had our grand opening,” said Troy Clay, the president of Mno-Bmadsen. “We thought it would be a good idea to let the word get out to customers slowly.”
Like many of the tribe’s properties, the store is tightly integrated with its neighboring casino. The store’s point-of-sale system is tied into the casino’s computer network, to help the businesses share information more easily.
“The tribe wants to make sure that, when possible, we can integrate our business systems together,” Clay said.
Besides providing a handy location for casino customers to refuel before hitting the road, the new gas station allows the tribe to provide discounted gas and cigarettes to its members, due to the fact they won’t have to pay sales tax or excise charges. In addition, the Pokagon government vehicles will be able to fill up there, meaning that money spent gas will remain within the tribe.
Another reason the tribe initially invested in the property is as a sort of “trial run” for the process of opening and operating a gas station, Clay said. The tribe has considered building another such location outside of the Four Winds casino in New Buffalo.
The Dowagiac gas station is Mno-Bmadsen’s third economic development project. The tribe also owns Seven Generations Architecture and Engineering, out of Benton Harbor, and Accu-Mold, a plastic modeling facility, out of Portage.
While the operation of the facility has run smoothly since opening, Clay said, there are a number of elements they are still working out, including acquiring their liquor license from the state. In addition, the band is working out a system that would allow people to use their reward cards at the casino for purchasing gas and other items.
While the tribe plans to hold a grand opening for the station sometime in January, they encourage anyone to come out and check it out when they get the chance.
“It’s a sharp little store and gas station,” Clay said. “People like simple, clean and straight-forward service, and that’s what we’re giving them.”