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    Rising Gas Prices Fuel Sale of C-stores

    Three Pit Stop stores in Conroe, Texas had been family owned for nearly 30 years.

    HOUSTON -- Recent high gas prices haven't just frustrated consumers. Rising prices and thin profit margins have been just as troublesome for gas station owners, and in the case of one family business, it's driven them out of the market.

    Loretta Cartwright's family has owned three Pit Stop convenience stores and gas stations in the Conroe area for 27 years, but they recently sold the business to new owners, reported the Courier of Montgomery County.

    "It's a totally different business environment these days," Cartwright told the news outlet. "Gas prices are up, competition is up and the profit margins are down -- way down."

    The current average price of a gallon of gasoline in the greater Houston area is $3.78, only 18 cents cheaper than the record high set in 2008. The razor-thin profit margin on fuel combined with service fees when customers pay with credit cards put gas station operators in a pinch.

    "There is a lot more competition -- consumers can buy their gas at grocery stores," said Cartwright. "We had to keep our prices in line or lose customers."

    Cartwright's parents Ted and Inez Mathis opened their first c-store in 1985 and regularly employed relatives. Following the sale, the three Pit Stops will close for remodeling before opening again under new ownership.

    "The convenience store business was good to us as were all of the people that supported our family over the years," said Cartwright. "We wish the new operators well, but it’s time for us to move on."

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