The Kings of Gas Stations PDF Print E-mail
2014-10-06 19:10:14
Adnan Kiriscioglu who owns 25 gas stations in four different states.(Photo: Yasemin Ozkafa)
By Cemil Ozyurt - The Turkish, Armenian, and Assyrian entrepreneurs from Turkey, who have been interested in the fuel industry in the USA since the 1960’s, are still running nearly 300 gas stations in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut today. Creating over 2 billion dollars worth of economic input, the entrepreneurs also provide employment for more than 3000 people. The gas station business is in the hands of Armenians, especially in northern New Jersey, and of Turks in the Long Island region. Long Island, the Crimean Tatars and Uzbek Turks had initially entered the sector widely, and became so strong as to virtually create their own franchise. The first known Turkish gas station owner became active in Long Island at the end of the 1960’s. Kanat Erbay, who left behind his military officer status in Turkey and settled in the USA, Kenan Ödemiş, one of the first Kazan Turks, Faruk Terpiş, and the former Fenerbahçe soccer player Salim Görür were among the first names that entered the fuel sector.

Kenan Ödemiş established a Kenaco gas station chain in 1981 and had a total of 23 branches in upstate New York, and, later, sold it to ATI stations in 1984. Numan Okuyan, who was directing Kenan Ödemiş’s business during those years, says that they had opened 23 stations in a short time over a region extending from Middletown to Albany, and that it was a great success for those days. Okuyan, at that time, was responsible for researching and designating the sites for the stations.

Power Test Petroleum Distributors was one of the first stations of the earliest gas station owners. Turkish entrepreneurs played an important role in the growth of the New York Yonkers-centered Power Test. Power Test bought the northeastern representation of Getty, a sub-station of the oil giant Texaco, in February 1985. and the firm’s name was changed to Getty. Also doing wholesale of fuels, Faruk Terpiş is still the head of the business.

Gas stations also became the focus of the Armenians that came from Turkey to New Jersey during the 1960’s. The person who served as the link in Turkish Armenians’ entrance into the fuel business in New Jersey was the mechanic Hamparsum (Harry) Civan. Civan, an Armenian from Istanbul, gave job opportunities at his workplace to many Turks and Armenians.
Among the gas station owners, the one who runs the largest chain is the owner of Atlantic Management, Tümay Basaranlar. (Photo: Orhan Akkurt)

One of the first gas station owners, Arev (Sunny) Kerkorian, had gained the capital, which he needed for opening his own station, by working at Civan’s business. Civan came to the USA in 1960 and passed away in February 2010 at the age of 79; he had opened Harry’s Amaco at 1300 Palisade Ave. in Fort Lee, New Jersey since 1970. The business is now being run by his daughters.

Another person who opened his own station and car repair shop after working with the mechanic Hampsarsum (known as ‘Hampik’) is the owner of Eurotech Motors, Inc., Zenop Tuncer. “The shop of Master Hampik was almost like a university. Many of those who opened car repair shops in New Jersey, such as Dikran, Arto, and Kirkor, had grown there,” says Tuncer.

The gas station business was so popular that, at one point, even Yasin Özdenak, a former player on the Cosmos soccer team, opened up an Amaco branch with the partnership of Turkish businessman Can Has. Özdenak and Can run the Amaco stations at 125th Street in Harlem, and at 34th Street and Hudson Street in Manhattan.

Levent Sertbas came to the USA in 1987 and worked at a station as pumper; now, he is the owner of two Exxon stations.
Among the gas station owners, the one who runs the largest chain is the owner of Atlantic Management, Tümay Başaranlar. Atlantis has nearly 30 stations in New York, 15 of which are located in Bronx.

On the other hand, in New Jersey, Hagop Uzatmaciyan, an Armenian from Istanbul, is another entrepreneur having the greatest number of stations, with 25 branches. He opened his very first station, as Exxon, in New Jersey’s Rochelle Park district. Uzatmaciyan is followed by Adnan Kirişcioğlu, who also has 25 stations. Kirişcioğlu has stations in New York, New Jersey, Virginia and Pennsylvania.  

Although the second generation does not have much of an interest in the fuel sector, Hagop Uzatmaciyan’s son Avak is an exception. Having different brand stations, such as Exxon, Gulf, BP, and Sunoco, in New Jersey, Uzatmaciyan is running his businesses with his son.

Kevork Uçar is also one of the owners who has the most number of stations in New Jersey after Hagop Uzatmaciyan. Uçar has stations in eight different locations. Another one of the longest-running gas station owners in New Jersey is İsmet Akar, who runs three Exxon and one Valero station.

Those who are now in the fuel sector are those who have come from the sector itself and know all phases of the gas station business. Levent Sertbaş is one of those people. He came to the USA in 1987 and worked at a station as pumper; now, he is the owner of two Exxon stations, in East Rutherford and Paramus.

By taking the offer of his employer in 1995 for a partnership, he had his first experience as an owner, and, later, bought his first station in 2002 in Paramus, and a second one in 2007 in East Rutherford. Sertbaş employs a total of 22 people.

Noting that it has now become too difficult, due to changes within the sector, to own a station through savings earned by working at a station, Sertbaş adds, “Previously, firms used to sell the stations at minimum cost or even grant them to those whom they trusted and could work with. Now, both the prices have gone up too much and the hand-over cases have become less compared to the past.” Sertbaş is one of the people who led the efforts, through a three-year-long lawsuit involving 130 Exxon station owners, for the legalization of the obligation for the Exxon company owner to ask the station runner first when the sale of a station location is considered. This initiative is considered as a major steps won against the Exxon Company.

Ara Alboyacian wrote history when he led and organized 20 station owners in filing a lawsuit against BP Company and won.(Photo: Hugh Morley/The Record)
Ara Alboyacian is also one of the most senior business owners in the fuel sector in New Jersey. A graduate of the Istanbul Austrian High School, he left Turkey in 1971. He states “In the 1970’s, a gas station could be bought for about 40-50 thousand dollars, but at the same time, the cost of a car was only around 3-4 thousand.” Having worked in his father-in-law’s Esso (Exxon) station at first, Alboyacian became the owner of the Amaco in Fort Lee in 1975. Throughout his thirty-year-long professional life, Alboyacian has employed a total of nearly one thousand people. A person to whom the Turkish students, the newcomers in the USA, and those without a place to stay went for support, Alboyacian now still runs two BP stations on one of the main roads of New Jersey, Route 46.

Also known for his influence in changing the destiny of all of the franchise owners in New Jersey, Alboyacian wrote history when he led and organized 20 station owners in filing a lawsuit against BP Company and won. BP, which was planning to withdraw from the retail sector and terminate contracts with all of its franchise owners in 2006, encountered a stiff wall. BP’s plan to implement a new lease and procurement agreement, which proposed unproportional price raises, was not agreed to by the branch owners.
It was probably the first time in BP’s history that it lost a case against the station owners. Over 1 million dollars were spent on lawyers during the case. Alboycian says, “The case we won stood as an example for all the franchise owners in New Jersey. They also benefited from the ruling that the main company would not be allowed to alter the contract for its own interests without the consent of the franchise owner.”
Sevket Kayabas is a well-known name among the Turks who are in the wholesale fuel sector, into which he entered in 2003.
A great majority of the Turkish entrepreneurs who are in the fuel sector are working as business owners. An exceptional professional owner who chose a different path and leaned towards wholesale of fuel to the stations is Şevket Kayabaş. Living in the USA for the past 32 years, Kayabaş is a well-known name among the Turks who are in the wholesale fuel sector, into which he entered in 2003. He holds the position of Manager of Northeastern States at the energy sector giant firm CPD Holding, which is owned by four Palestinian friends and includes under its roof NJ Energy Corporation (Exxon), CPD Energy Corporation (Shell), NECG Holdings Corporation (BP and Getty), and CPD NY Energy Corporation (Mobil).

The adventure of Kayabaş in America started in 1982 with his employment, for $3.50 dollars an hour, at a Texaco station in California. After graduating from Hacettepe University’s French Language and Literature Department in 1977, Kayabaş came to the USA in pursuit of adventure. After staying in California for a year and a half, he moved to New York in 1984. Here, he started working at a station belonging to Kanat Arbay, one of the leading names in the fuel sector.

While he was working at a Texaco in New York without insurance, he had a job offer from the Jewish businessman Avi Stein, whose station was next to Texaco. At that time, his wife was pregnant with their second child and he did not have health insurance. So, Kayabaş told Avi, “I will work with you if you provide me with health insurance.” He, then, became the manager of three Amaco and one Mobil stations. He adds, “I settled for the first transfer for cheap but at the end Avi was the one who made me the boss.” The number of stations he managed increased to seven by the end of one year. Kayabaş also got his very first station, in 1987, in partnership with Avi. Between the years 1987 and 2000, Kayabaş even increased his station numbers to five at one point.

He also went to Baltimore and bought four stations, once. In 2003, when he decided to sell everything he had and return to Turkey, he had a job offer from Ocean Petroleum, a wholesale fuel company which had bought 18 new stations in Pennsylvania at that time changed his mind. He did not go back Turkey. While Ocean Petroleum was distributing fuel to nearly 60 stations previously, that number reached 80 when Kayabaş was running the position. He contributed significantly to the company’s sale of 120 million gallons of fuel in one year.

In 2008, when the BP stations went on sale, Kayabaş had a very important role in adding 15 of those stations to Ocean Petroleum.

Between November 2011 and May 2012, ExxonMobil Corporation made a decision to hand over 235 fuel stations in New Jersey to the business runners through the ‘Right of First Refusal’ system; however, Ocean Petroleum, where Kayabaş was working, did not take an active role in this sale. Eight firms competed to get the stations; three of them reached the forefront.

As the firms did not want to lose the chance to work with a professional who had the power to sell 250 million gallon fuel, all three firms offered Kayabaş the opportunity to make an agreement on the new stations.

Among these offers, Kayabaş decided to take the one from Chestnut Petroleum Distributors (CPD), which was established in 1981 by brothers Ahmet, Salih, Salah and Halil. He started working on that on March 9, 2012. With stations also in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, CPD’s 150 stations in New York and New Jersey regions are directly under the management of Kayabaş. 160 million gallons of CDP’s fuel sales, which has a total sale value of 400 million gallons per year, is carried out by Kayabaş. Among the stations run by CDP are 75 BP, 32 Getty, 66 Exxon, 97 Mobil, and 80 Shell stations. Kayabaş, whose father is a military officer, states that he grew up with military discipline. He is also the president of ATCOM (American Turkish Trade Bureau), a businessmen’s association. Living in Delaware, Kayabaş is now 61 years old and a father of five children.
Last Updated ( 2014-10-07 17:44:56 )
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