CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — To the dismay of local residents and drivers from around the area, the days of the town’s gas wars appear to be over.
More than a month after Cumberland Farms bought out and closed its competitor, the gas station and convenience store Freshies/On the Go, no plan has emerged for use of the property, which sits vacant in the heart of town.
The two businesses, across the street from one another at the intersection of Ocean House Road (Route 77), Shore Road and Scott Dyer Road, were known for driving each others’ pump prices well below the regional average.
Town Manager Michael McGovern said as of last week, Cumberland Farms had not informed the town of its plans for the Freshies property, which was home to the family-owned Jonesy’s Mobil for decades before being sold in 2009 to R.H. Foster, the Hampden-based company that owns Freshies.
“We have heard nothing from Cumberland Farms,” McGovern said. “There’s lots of rumors. I hear rumors, and that’s it.”
Local conjecture has ranged from speculation about if and when Cumberland Farms will move into the building across the street, to why the store chose now to buy out its competitor, to what it will do with the two properties.
Right now, it’s all hearsay.
A cashier at Cumberland Farms said the store plans to move to the Freshies property, but there is no clear time frame for the move. Derek Beckwith, a spokesman for Cumberland Farms, would not offer a statement about the company’s plans when contacted this week.
Regardless of what may happen, some residents are saddened by the loss of Freshies, and by the way the store went about closings its doors, with little advance warning for employees or customers.
“We’re so disappointed that Freshies chose to shut down without letting their patrons know in advance,” said Sara Brame, who lives in the town center. “We support the idea of buying local and we’re very disappointed in the way they handled it.”
“Closing stores is never easy, given the impact on hardworking employees and local communities,” Robert Tracy, executive vice president of R.H. Foster, said in a press release. “We truly appreciate the dedication and service from the Cape Elizabeth employees and thank the community for their patronage to our convenience store and Freshies. While not an easy decision, we have an obligation to make tough decisions when necessary to improve the strength of our company.”
Koren Sullivan, of South Freeport, said her family would miss Freshies’ pizza.
“We went there pretty frequently on Friday nights,” she said, “and it was our little tradition to stop there for pizza takeout after the kids’ church pageant on Christmas Eve.”
McGovern said the location of the businesses has fueled speculation about Cumberland Farms’ motives and future plans.
“I think people are concerned about it because, one, it’s in the center of town, and two, both are community institutions,” he said. “Cumberland Farms has been there for about 20 years. Freshies and its predecessor, Jonesy’s, had been there for over 50 years.
“And along with Key Bank also being sold, if you look at what people think of as the center of town, three out of the four businesses are in play. As a result, I think it’s natural that people would be concerned and interested.”