Some Station Owners Highlight Distance From "Big Oil"

You've heard it before.

"All three of our stores today are selling below cost," gas station owner Kent Kildea said Sunday.

Kildea, like many station owners, says he's getting squeezed just as much as his customers.

"We're not corporate oil. We're not record-breaking profits quarter after quarter and we want people to know that," Kildea said.

Now, rather than just casually mentioning the difference, some owners are making it very clear -- Including Kildea.

"The sign has been out no more than a week ... customers at the register say, 'I thought this was another corporate store.'"

Kildea is talking about a prominent sign on his Grand River Avenue Marathon gas station in East Lansing. It reads: "Locally Owned (by the) Kildea Family."

At another East Lansing station, a Mobil on Haslett Road, a sign read earlier this week: "Not Owned by Exxon Mobil."

The owner, Jim Little, said he plans to end his relationship with Mobil shortly.

Kildea also owns Marathon stations in Okemos and Williamston. For independently-owned stations like his, the Marathon name is just the brand of gasoline he chooses to buy and sell. It's been that way for his family since 1966. So, why the new sign?

"There's a lot of publicity on the profits the oil companies are making right now," noting appearances on the "Today" show by major oil executives.

But do customers even care who they're buying gas from? We couldn't find many who did.

"Just had to get some gas, so I pulled in. I didn't really pay attention to the sign," Todd Nealey of East Lansing said, pulling into Kildea's station.

Still, Nealey says he can see the advantage to buying locally.

"Keeps the money close," he said.

At the Kildea station in Williamston, David Anderson said it didn't much matter to him.

"Not really. I have to buy gas regardless of who owns it," Anderson said.

Despite indifference from some customers, Kildea says in the long run, his local ties should bring more business.

"We're here to support the community, make it grow. I hope the community realizes that. All local businesses, not just ours."