Why 4 Valero stores closed is still a mystery

It appears the owner-operators of four Valero gas stations in Rock Hill are missing in action. The stores mysteriously closed more than six weeks ago and have yet to reopen.

While the store shelves remain stocked with snacks, and beer signs still hang in windows, information about the shutdown has been slim to none.

I first noticed the Valero stations were closed when I tried to buy gas at the location on Celanese Road at Interstate 77 in early January. Oddly, it was closed in the middle of the day. The same week, I started getting calls from readers who also were wondering what happened.

Apparently, a total of four stations were closed. The mystery closings happened at 1430 Celanese Road, 3065 Lesslie Highway, 2110 Mount Holly Road and 267 N. Anderson Road.

Naturally, I called the stations. No answer. I talked to neighbors. No clue of what happened. Everyone knew the stores were closed. Nobody knew why.

Calls to Valero's corporate headquarters didn't reveal much, either. A company spokesperson said the four stations in Rock Hill were owned by a franchisee, but the company would not release any names or reason for the closing.

City utility records show the stores' account was registered to Petroleum Marketing Group, located in the Business Development Center at 454 S. Anderson Road.

But attempts to reach PMG's Rock Hill office were unsuccessful. At first, calls were not answered. Calls last week were met with the unfriendly tone of a disconnected phone number, and the Business Development Center said PMG was no longer operating out of that office. A forwarding address was not available.

There is a Petroleum Marketing Group in Virginia, but officials at that company said they weren't affiliated with the Rock Hill stores. Another dead end.

For weeks, readers have asked what happened to these popular filling stations, but despite repeated inquiries, the answers remain in the dark.

And yet, I'll offer this prediction: Considering that oil companies continue to post record profits as Americans demand more and more gasoline, those darkened Valero stores won't be dormant for long.

'Mosquito' tourism

Tourism efforts in York County should emulate mosquitos. At least, that's what Bennish Brown, director of the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau, suggested last week.

Brown, the friendly smile we've all seen on local TV, wasn't advocating sucking the blood out of visitors when he made the comment at York County's Second Annual Tourism Summit. He was using the mosquito as a metaphor for how a small community can make noise in the tourism industry, similar to a mosquito buzzing around a room causing people to take notice.

"Compared to some places, we're small. But like mosquitos, we'll drive you crazy," Brown said. "If you think you're too small to be effective (at tourism marketing), then you've never been in bed with mosquitos like us."

Some of Brown's "mosquitos" were honored at the summit for their contributions to tourism efforts in York County last year. It was the convention and visitors bureau's first annual awards.

Headlining the list of winners was Sharon resident Jerry West, founder of the Museum of Western York County, who was given the Pilot Light award in honor of his promotion of tourism in the county's western reaches. The Pilot Light award is given to an individual who has been a steadfast advocate for local tourism.

Jody Taylor of NarroWay Productions was honored with the Partner in Tourism of the Year award. And the Baxter Hood Center reception staff was awarded the You're Welcome award for its outstanding customer service.

Also at the summit, York County was awarded the Preserve America designation for its preservation and promotion of its heritage and history through tourism. Signs boasting the award will be placed along the county line.

Leitner wins again

Rock Hill-based Leitner Construction recently landed a big deal to build the new campus center at Winthrop University. The contract will be official on Monday.

The center, to be built in the footprint of the former Peabody gymnasium, will be the latest Leitner project on the campus. Mac Leitner and his late brother Jimmy have overseen construction of Owens Hall, the Winthrop Ballpark and Jimmy Leitner's namesake Leitner Wall in front of Kinard Hall.

Etc. ...

• Chester native Cathy Lanier was recently named Enterprising Woman of the Year by Enterprising Women Magazine. Lanier is the founder of Technology Solutions, which provides software development and other professional IT services to companies throughout the Southeast.

• Rock Hill financial planner Bennie Copeland recently completed a training program by MetLife on developing skills to serve families with children with special needs. Copeland, whose office is in Ballantyne, offers financial planning and solutions to special needs families.

• Rock Hill real estate agent Pam Morrell is the recipient of the 2007 Keller Williams Carolinas Region number two Individual Agent Award. She also recently received the 2007 Keller Williams Platinum Medallion Award.

• Keller Williams Baxter Village real estate agent Jodi Detamore recently received the Top Gun Team Leader Award for 2007.