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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. -- After 42 years as a fixture in the area, the sun is setting on Thalia Shell. The gas and service station on Virginia Beach Boulevard east of Independence Boulevard is closing its doors.
Bill Edney told the Virginian-Pilot that shuttering the business he and his family have operated for more than four decades is not his choice. Edney is a jobber, which means he works for Miller Oil Co., and that company wants out of its lease. Pembroke Enterprises Inc., which owns the property on the outskirts of Pembroke Mall, has found a developer that plans to build a Walgreens on the site, he said.
As Edney grew his business, Thalia Shell became known for customer service and community service. Many customers stopping by in the business' final days recalled many high school and church group car washes at the station.
In the early days, Shell Oil hosted competitions among its stations to grade them on cleanliness, creativity and customer service. The Edneys won many years, Brenda Maddrey, Edney's sister, told the newspaper. Maddrey has worked as the station's bookkeeper since 1980.
Despite all the changes in the gas station industry in the past 42 years, Thalia Shell still operated like an old-time service station boasting three service bays, gas pumps and a small shop, where liters of soda shared a shelf with motor oil. The station also still offered free air, and Edney would help customers check their tires.
Edney has been working at Thalia Shell since his father William opened the station in 1969. At the time, Shell Oil owned the lease on the property. The Edneys operated the pumps along with their own service bays.
However, over the years, the area has been built up. Specifically, according to the news report, the Town Center development sprung up across the boulevard bringing with it more traffic. As a result, the property where the station sits became more valuable, which led to increased rent, explained Jeff Miller, president of Miller Oil. Thalia Shell was not generating enough revenue to cover the rising costs, he said.
Ramsay Smith, senior vice president of Pembroke Enterprises, said his company could have earned higher rent payments through the years with a pharmacy instead of a gas station, but Miller and Edney were loyal and reliable tenants. In addition, city development officials "really wanted to change that use," Smith said.
As part of the live-work-and-play environment that Town Center has tried to create, the area needs a drugstore, he said.
However, Edney's customers said they need Thalia Shell more than they do another pharmacy, with a Walgreens about three miles away on Independence Boulevard, according to the report.