Headed for a Strong Finish

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Headed for a Strong Finish

After operating two BP franchise locations in south Florida for more than 18 years, Mort Kozak and his wife wanted to own their own business.

"We fell in love with the Ocala, Fla., area and saw a lot of growth potential there," said Kozak. "So when a 2-acre property became available close to the center of town, we purchased it."

Knowing the new location was situated close to a few NASCAR racetracks -- the corner of the land off a highway on the way to the Daytona racetrack -- the couple thought a NASCAR theme would be perfect.

"We are on the way to the Daytona track and many people in the area are motivated by NASCAR, so taking the demographics into consideration, we thought it would be a great concept," said Kozak.

Construction started on the 5,000-square-foot facility in December 2004 -- which includes a convenience store, fast-food court area with seating for more than 20 people and a car wash. The site opened for operation this past August, and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Kozak decided on the Sunoco brand of fuel and named the convenience store Ocala Pit Stop.

"I'm originally from Philly, so I always used Sunoco products and I knew a lot of people from the north and northeast would be familiar with it," he noted. "Also, Sunoco recently signed a 10-year contract with NASCAR, which fit into our theme."

The location offers 17 fueling positions with a large variety of fuel products including the three grades of fuel -- 87, 89 and 93 octane -- as well as off-road diesel or farm fuel, on-road diesel and two grades of racing fuel.

"We offer a 100-octane unleaded Sunoco racing fuel and a leaded product for off-road use," said Kozak. "Our customers that race their cars in the area will come in with their race car on a trailer to fill up their tanks or a gas can to take to the race track."

The pumps are Wayne Dresser Ovation, which Kozak found to be customer-friendly while offering the latest technology. The store's point of sale system is from Wayne Dresser as well, and is integrated with the fuel as well as the back office.

To emphasize the NASCAR theme carried throughout the property, five NASCAR cars sit on top of the canopy, above the fueling stations.

"They are the actual size of the cars you would find on the track, but it's just the shell," explained Kozak. "The tires are filled with foam so they won't go flat."

Kozak contacted a structural steel company that created cars like these as a hobby and explained the concept he had in mind. "The steel company arranged to have the decals imaged, and we are going to reimage the cars every two years," he said.

The cars were installed using a large crane, and can be easily removed, Kozak reported. "We will repaint and reimage them every two years so they have a clean and new look since the sun will take its toll on them."

Located approximately 50 feet away from the store, a car wash provides additional profit to the site. Separate from the store, Kozak purchased a self-contained unit with a pre-fabricated building and equipment room from Belanger Car Wash.
At the entrance, customers can choose from a menu of three washes, with prices starting at $6.

"We also offer a $7 wash and wax where we do the undercarriage and the wheels as well as dry the car," said Kozak. "The $8 wash includes a triple-foam conditioner in three colors, which also offers a candy smell."

A car wash can be purchased at the pumps, inside the store or at the drive-through. Furthermore, the car wash does not use any runners or floor treads to move the cars, according to Kozak. When a car pulls in, light beams activate the wash functions, and the wash can accommodate any car with a 7-foot height clearance.

"When a car first goes through, a picture of the vehicle is taken, so the equipment can adjust to it," Kozak explained.
Free air for the tires, water for the radiator and a vacuum station are available at no cost, and the company plans to offer a 5-cent-off-per-gallon promotion with the purchase of a wash.

In the few months it has been open, Ocala Pit Stop is already successful, and may eventually add seating outside as well as WiFi access for customers, Kozak said. If success continues, he may consider opening more stores with the same concept as well.

"We would go with the Sunoco brand and NASCAR imaging again because the acceptance has been fantastic," he said. "People love it and so do our employees."