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Survey IDs community wants for Mini-Mart

by: MARK MILLER - Chris Jensen of Petroleum Realty (right) holds up a glass pitcher full of names of people who turned in a survey his firm did, with the support of the Columbia City administration, to determine what the community wants to see at the derelict Mini-Mart Grocery and Gas property. Columbia City Mayor Cheryl Young (left) drew the winning names: Ed and Cheryl Fischer, who won $100.A broker working to market the derelict gas station and convenience store in north Columbia City presented the results of a survey he conducted over the past month Monday, June 30, with several conclusions about what community members want to see at the property.

The Mini-Mart Grocery and Gas — which went out of business in 2012 and was recently purchased from out of foreclosure by Rincon Real Estate Group of San Clemente, California — has a large enough main building to host both a convenience store and a deli or restaurant of some kind, according to Chris Jensen of Petroleum Realty, a Springfield-based real estate company that specializes in gas stations.

Survey responses show a clear preference among respondents for food service during daytime hours and the evening, rather than late at night, as well as stronger interest in a dine-in restaurant at the property than fast food.

About 70 percent of respondents also claimed they would visit a drive-through coffee, espresso or smoothie stand at the Mini-Mart, according to Jensen's report.

“That tells me that's something that needs to be done there,” Jensen said.

While Jensen noted that, historically, the gas station has supplied a significantly lower volume of gasoline than the state average for a station, and certain upgrades would have to be made to make it attractive for a major brand, about two-thirds of survey respondents said they would be likelier to fuel up at the gas station if it were branded. Almost half chose Chevron as the brand they would like to see, out of four well-known gas station companies the survey tested.

“Can you picture the property cleaned up with Chevron out on the islands and a Dutch Brothers drive-through?” Jensen asked, to murmurs of agreement from the small audience at Columbia City Hall.

by: MARK MILLER - A gas pump at the Mini-Mart Grocery and Gas in Columbia City, looking out toward Highway 30. The business closed in 2012, but it is back on the market.One of the most ambitious ideas for how to redevelop the Mini-Mart was suggested by multiple respondents: bringing a McMenamins pub and restaurant to the property.

“Can you imagine McMenamins at the north end of the building, Chevron and Dutch Brothers, and a little grocery convenience store line?” Jensen remarked.

Of McMenamins, he added, “From Longview down to Scappoose, I think it would pull.”

Jensen said he emailed one of the owners of McMenamins to gauge the Portland-based chain's interest, but he had not heard back as of Monday.

Some 92 survey responses were received. Jensen estimated about 3.8 percent of city residents responded to the survey, which he said was a statistically significant response.

“It verified what I was expecting,” Jensen said of the results.

The property has been listed for sale since early June. Jensen said the asking price is $695,000.

“Unfortunately, I don't have the money to buy the property,” said Jensen, to laughter. “We've enjoyed this so much and enjoyed this property and the community. … It'd be fun. And it'd be an ongoing project.”