Mitch Nesheiwat has an eye for opportunity.
Formerly a New York taxi driver, he took the leap into the petroleum business in 1978, operating a gas station in the Empire State’s Hudson Valley under the Power Test Corp. brand, which is now Getty Petroleum. While running that station, he started to bring in products, including milk, eggs, soda and chips, essentially creating a mini convenience store, which at the time did not exist in the area.
By the early 1980s, he took another leap when he purchased his first location in Kingston, N.Y., and became the first in his area to open a full convenience store at a gas station.
“At the first location, I said to myself, ‘Let’s make it a c-store and take it to the next level,’ so I would bring in products and sell them to customers,” Nesheiwat told Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner. “Then, when I began buying my own stations, I would buy them with a garage, take out the garage and make them c-stores.”
This was the start of what is now Gas Land Petroleum Inc. In the beginning, the company operated the stores purchased by Nesheiwat, but since 2008, it is strictly a franchised operation that leases the locations it buys to independent operators.
“I’m a developer. I don’t want to run the c-store, so we look for good franchisees who can run them,” he explained. “We guide them and help them where they need it, and then let them run it.”
In 1989, Nesheiwat also became a distributor and today supplies Sunoco, Shell and CITGO fuels to more than 100 franchisees, as well as 60 additional locations in the Hudson Valley area. A few unbranded locations fly the Gas Land flag.
“I have an engineering background, and I started to buy abandoned and underdeveloped locations and recreate them,” Nesheiwat said. “This is something built in me. I didn’t go to school for it.”
The company has become a family business, with all his children playing a role. His son Zeidan is the marketing manager, son Mousa is vice president, and son Rabee is the general manager. His daughter-in-law, Rheem, serves as chief financial officer. Nesheiwat said he is building the company in order to pass it on to his children and grandchildren, and therefore he is always scouting new locations to buy.
“I get a cup of coffee, drive around and get lost. Then I find a location and call to see who owns it,” he said. “I love what I do and it’s more like a hobby than work. I’m always hunting for the best deal, and if I find a corner location that I know can make a quarter of a million dollars a year, I just can’t say no to that.”
However, he is open to all opportunities and if the timing and the deal is right, he will purchase multiple sites as well. One example is a 2009 acquisition of 11 locations from Bottini Fuel in New York.
“So far, we have reconstructed and redesigned seven of them,” Zeidan Nesheiwat told CSNews for the Single Store Owner. “We still have three more to go, and some of them didn’t need work. In the past four years, we have redone three or four per year.”
There are no restrictions on where or what type of properties Gas Land Petroleum will acquire. Both highway and residential areas are possibilities, but all of the company’s stores are in the Hudson Valley, Zeidan Nesheiwat said.
“We have no restrictions on where we do business, but we stick with where we live because that is what we know,” the son explained.
Additionally, Mitch Nesheiwat is involved in local politics and presents all of his own projects to the local planning boards. As a result, he’s developed relationships, proven himself as a local businessman and often gets approvals faster than others new to the area.
Concept & Design
Mitch Nesheiwat spends much of his time scouting underdeveloped locations that show potential, which he then purchases and rebuilds. Each rebuilt location is designed to fit the neighborhood it’s located in before the site is leased to an operator.
“We create jobs, pay taxes and clean up the neighborhood with our stores,” the patriarch said. “When we go in, we enhance the area and it attracts other businesses.”
The company also brings in additional brands at many of its locations, including Dunkin’ Donuts, Subway and Verizon. So far, there are 23 locations with a Dunkin’ Donuts, all with average sales of $22,000 to $25,000 a week, and 11 more are in the pipeline.
Despite the locations initially being viewed as abandoned and rundown, Mitch Nesheiwat finds sales in his stores often rival competitors who pay top dollar for their sites.
“I know the locations I can do well in. One I purchased was abandoned for 20 years and now it’s bringing in $125,000 in inside sales per month for the operator,” he explained. “I was also the first one in the region to bring Dunkin’ Donuts into a gas station.”
Each store has its own name with a theme that fits into the neighborhood where it resides. The only common denominator is to create locations that don’t look like a typical gas station, according to Mitch Nesheiwat.
“It’s not like I put one design in and they all look the same. We’ve designed locations out of stucco, and one we created to look like a two-story house. It looks like there is an apartment upstairs, or the top of a house, but it isn’t, he noted. “In one location, we actually bricked the columns of the gas canopy so it really doesn’t look like a typical gas station.”
Gas Land Petroleum also owns a construction business, Nesheiwat Builders, and Mitch Nesheiwat is involved from the initial design phase of each store — including choosing the materials — all the way through the construction of each project.
“We do it all, A to Z,” he said. “We choose the tiles, wallpaper and everything, and I have a sister company that builds residential homes and plazas as well. Every location is like a new painting and I am the artist. It’s what I enjoy, and it doesn’t feel like work.”
Many of the locations offer delis with hot food, and there is also a proprietary pizza theme in one of the stores, but Mitch Nesheiwat doesn’t get involved at the product level outside of the coffee brand and foodservice offered.
He will advise operators, but leaves much of it up to them, he said. The company also provides owners with technology, and shares the cost of repairs in a 50/50 split. Many of the franchisees own more than one location with Gas Land.
“We started with a handful of dealers and they have grown with us,” said Zeidan Nesheiwat. “We have a line of dealers and [they] are always asking us for more stations. Some people started with one and now own 10 or more locations.”
Some dealers also use Mitch Nesheiwat as a consultant to get his opinion on sites and whether he thinks the purchase is a good one. Gas Land will supply them the gasoline as well.
“This work gives me pride,” said the company founder. “I can look and know I took something that was nothing and made it into something real that I can be proud of — and that also makes money.”