Give and receive: Rockwell general store keeps gas prices down in midst of inflation

Published 12:05 am Sunday, July 31, 2022

ROCKWELL — Gas prices have finally started to come down throughout the country, but for one gas station in Rowan County, the price and quality of its fuel has been garnering great appreciation from citizens since March.

The Post received a call last week, (when the average price for a gallon of regular gas was still about $4.09), about Cheeseman General Store’s gas prices from an anonymous individual who had never been to the area. Surprised by the low cost, she went inside and asked the worker behind the counter if $3.80 was the correct price and was told there was no mistake. She told the Post she was still wary of the quality of the gas because of the price, so she contacted the Department of Agriculture to come out and test the gas which, according to the department, was of excellent quality.

The convenience store, established in 1989, also serves as a grill and gas station and is located at 9805 Old Beatty Ford Road in Rockwell. It used to be a functional house where the owner’s sister lived before moving out in 1989. Owner Chad Cheeseman and his father Larry Cheeseman would sit on the porch while it was still a house, counting the cars driving by. One Friday afternoon, they counted 300 cars. That whispered potential to them both.

Having established other convenience stores in Concord, the father made a business plan for the property with his son after seeing great potential in the area. The convenience store and grill was born, and two years later, in 1991, gas pumps were installed.

At the beginning of rapid inflation back in March, supervisor Tracy Merck feared for their customers who were loyal about filling their gas tanks at the store. She was afraid increasing prices might keep them away. However, she said that Chad Cheeseman stood his ground to keep gas affordable for the residents of Rockwell.

“We figured we’d stay the same since you don’t make much profit off gas anyway,” he said.

Management consistently kept their fuel prices low, charging just enough to make three to four cents per gallon, which is enough to keep the energy running for the pumps.

The decision to offer the best gas at an affordable price reaped an unexpected benefit — an increase in customers. The money Cheeseman’s General Store lost in fuel profit was made up by traffic in the store that offers tobacco products, cold drinks, grocery goods and grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. According to Merck, a man from Cherokee came in for a burger one day and ended up bring his family back later just to try one of their burgers.

“Word of mouth makes a world of difference,” she said.

She also expressed how overwhelmed with joy she felt knowing someone reached out to the Post about the quality of the business.

“It’s tremendous to us that people recognize what we’re doing,” Chad Cheeseman added. “Something in this country’s got to give. We want to make sure our customers are taken care of just as they’ve taken care of us.”

Although it has been open for 31 years, the owner plans to expand his offerings, including adding a drive-thru window for the grill and bringing in bait and tackle.

“What they’re doing is great for the community,” said Frankie Jones, who has been visiting the store since the first day it opened its doors.

Merck said the workers maintain a tight relationship with their customers, knowing what they will order for breakfast and asking how people’s children are doing. To maintain those connections and make new ones, the establishment plans to keep its affordability going, offering an affordable stop to fill up the car, grab a bite to eat and feel like you’re at home.

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