MENDOCINO – The rocky town of Mendocino has long been known for its rugged coastline and quaint bed and breakfasts, attracting visitors from across the country. But lately, tourists have been flocking to a seaside hamlet north of San Francisco for a new attraction you won’t find on the Chamber of Commerce’s can’t-miss list.
“We live in Mendocino, Calif., and we’re at the station that has the most gas in America,” Ernest Walker, visiting Texas on Thursday, told his friends over a Facebook livestream after Judy pulled up to the pump. Schlafer’s Chevron Station on Main Street – Not to fill up but to snap a picture of the price tag.
“That’s right guys,” he said, pointing his phone at the ticker for premium gas. “Bam! $9.94 per gallon.
A gallon of regular is only 31 cents cheaper.
Walker’s wife Debbie said that their son, a recent UC Davis graduate, had warned her about the station, so they filled a $3 per gallon giveaway at Fort Bragg, nine miles away. “Moms trying to figure out their next gas bill.”
The dubious notoriety is growing for the only gas station in the city, which is drawing abuses from locals in the tight-knit community and look-loos from out-of-state. As gas prices across the country climb to near daily records and drivers are crushed by filling $100, Mendocino’s fuel depot has become a lightning rod for angry drivers who say they have no clue. whether the local station is setting fair prices or gauging them. For a necessary good.
“I don’t give what the next guy down the streets thinks,” said Schlafer, the station’s 71-year-old proprietor. “I’ve been really tough.”
On a recent Thursday, about a dozen people went to the station to take pictures of the unprecedented price tag—regularly $9.63 per gallon. Fair or not, the rising numbers are an ominous symbol of a time when the global oil market has collapsed, inflation is on the rise and the country is headed for a recession.
On Thursday, some road trippers who stumbled upon Schlaffer’s station actually bought gas in a state of disbelief.
“I was shocked,” said Dan Sinikin, an English professor on a cross-country trip who had no idea how expensive gas was until he saw the price at the pump – Schlaffer doesn’t post the price on a sign at most stations. like. He paid about $50 for five gallons to keep his Subaru running.
Mendocino’s lone fuel stop has become a viral sensation — featured in news hits spanning Fox News and the New York Post — but the headlines are only the latest turning point in the station’s more than 100-year history.
According to Mendocino historian Jane Tillis, the station attached to Schlaffer’s auto repair shop first opened as an S&E garage in 1914, as the growing city was in the heyday of chopping coastal redwood trees for timber. Well into the 20th century, fuel depots were an integral part of the economy.
Locals say this changed when Schlafer took over ownership from her ex-husband in the early 2000s.
“Twenty years ago everyone used it. They were priced competitively. Then all of a sudden he raised the prices,” said Gary Pohlman, a contractor who has lived in Mendocino for four decades. giving.”
Now the station caters almost exclusively to people after a long drive along the coast of California and tourists unaware that they can cruise 15 minutes north of Fort Bragg where gas is about 40% cheaper. Is.
“I think I once filled a can for my lawnmower,” said Tangerine Steinbrecher, who moved to Mendocino in 1996. “I don’t do that anymore.”
Drivers passing through Mendocino often ask: are these prices legal? According to the Attorney General’s Office, they are. Unless there is an emergency covering petrol prices, the oil industry and gas retailers are free to set the prices as they wish.
Joe Hespelt, who works with Schlaffer fixing cars, said his boss should not be blamed for overcharging. Everything from expensive boutique hotels to sandwiches is more expensive in Mandocino, he said – why not gas? “I don’t think we steal from anyone,” he said. “They’re still getting a product.”
Schlaffer is quick to defend his gas prices, explaining that he will have to charge more because his pumps are not part of a convenience store. Without backend profits on cigarettes and candy bars, Schlafer said he needed to charge more for gas.
She said her latest delivery of the fuel increased from $30,000 to $50,000 for 8,800 gallons. While that won’t provide a profit margin, the difference between what Schlafer pays for gas and what she charges Pencil about $4 a gallon. On average, California gas stations charge drivers 56 cents per gallon on top of their costs and taxes, according to the California Energy Commission.
“I’m a free woman. I’m on my own without any help,” said Schlafer, whose office door is decorated with red letters “Boss Lady” and an anti-vaccination manifesto posted on the window.
She is “fed” of hate calls from strangers and headlines in the media.
Schlafer knows that his business model is putting him at odds with the other 800 residents of the city. But she said she was going to go ahead with higher prices and thicker skin to avoid criticism.
“I’ve been told a lot of different things,” Schlaffer said. “It hasn’t changed me a quota.”