Saddle up! The latest in the Fuel City convenience store extravaganza and road show is almost open in Saginaw.
Fuel City founder and carnival barker John Benda hopes to open his 1880s Western themed fourth store — at 14,000 square feet it’s his largest — by New Year’s Day. It’s on Blue Mound Road in Saginaw.
While this latest version doesn’t boast the usual menagerie of exotic animals — the stores in Mesquite, Dallas and Haltom City have camels, zebras and Longhorns — this store will have the Fuel City trademark street tacos and fried pies, a King Burger and a kiosk for buying Little Caesars pizza.
“It’s going to be lots of fun running that store. We put in an oversized patio so there will always be room to sit down and eat a taco,” Benda said. “If you have good food and low prices and have fun, people will come.”
Fun is a major factor with Benda. His other stores have become tourist destinations and late-night hangouts. At one point the weekend karaoke night at his store just south of downtown Dallas became so popular that he had to hire off-duty Dallas cops to direct traffic.
The store has 40 fueling stations — 32 selling unleaded gas and 8 pumping diesel. Benda has already hired about 140 employees. He won’t say how much he spent building this store, but the 8,000-square-foot Haltom City store he opened last year cost about $10 million.
Selling gas at a competitive price point is a hallmark at Fuel City. But like QuikTrip, Racetrac and Buc-ee’s, Fuel City lures customers from under the fueling-station canopies and into the store where they hope they will buy other items that have higher profit margins than gasoline.
While each Fuel City store sports a Western theme, this one puts it on display outside with a tall, rotating neon sign that depicts a cowboy riding a bucking bronco and says “Howdy.” Inside, there is more neon and posters tied to Fort Worth’s Western heritage.
Little Caesars represents the first time that the company has had a store-within-a-store location. Benda couldn’t explain how getting a pepperoni pizza fits in with honoring someone like Wild Bill Hickok, but he wanted to go ahead and do it anyway.
And about the lack of animals at this location, don’t count that idea out just yet, Benda said.
“I’ve got my eyes on a spot and I’ve got the animals to put on it,” he said with a laugh.