BUSINESS

Life at the 24-Hour South Lamar Chevron

By Yusuf Abusharif
Oxford Stories

Running the only 24-hour gas station in Oxford can sometimes be a curious, yet difficult task. A wide range of customers come in during the late hours between midnight and 5 a.m.

They include Intoxicated young adults stuttering at the register trying to decide what kind of cigarettes they want. There are also tired nurses and doctors coming off shifts at the nearby Baptist Memorial Hospital, grabbing something to drink and bite to eat before they go home. And you’ll see your average Joe, who for whatever reason, cannot get any sleep and has a serious craving for a Snickers bar.

Not every soul is up for the task, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for Mehdi Hijazi, owner of the Chevron Gas Station on South Lamar.

Al-Hijazi and Rogers during the busy hours at Chevron.

Hijazi and Rogers during the busy afternoon hours at Chevron.

“I don’t mind it at all working at night,” he said. “Sometimes, I get tired and business gets slow, but since we’re the only gas station open this late, I did the math, and it’s really profitable. We have a monopoly from 12 to 8 in the morning on all gas station customers”

Hijazi, a tall, olive-skinned man, has owned the store for over 10 years and does not plan on selling it any time soon. He immigrated from Sanaa, Yemen, 12 years ago and moved to Memphis.

After a few failed ventures in Memphis, he moved to a less saturated market in North Mississippi. He now resides in Batesville, a strategic location close to his stores in Oxford and Holly Springs.

His Oxford store lies in a strategic location near a hospital, several business offices and multiple neighborhoods with students and locals alike. According to Hijazi, his move to North Mississippi was the best decision he could have made business wise.

“Memphis has a gas station on every corner,” Hijazi said. “It’s hard to make any money when it doesn’t matter which gas station you go to. Here in Mississippi, gas stations are necessary for some people. They have food and house products too.”

Hijazi said business has been good since he bought it, but it got even better in September of 2013 when the Oxford Board of Alderman voted to abolish the law that prohibited any establishment (besides restaurants) from selling cold beer.

The law was set in place in 1973 after Oxford ended its alcohol dry spell and reinstated the sale of alcohol within the city limits. To prohibit people from getting directly in the car and opening their cold beverage, the ban on cold beer was set and lasted for 30 years. Chevron customer and local businessman Jeff Schilling was relieved about the decision.

“I saw the law as really out of place and outlandish,” Schilling said. “I mean, come on. It’s the 21st century for Christ’s sake. Who really needs to be told how cold or warm their beer is allowed to be?”

For your average person, the graveyard shift at Chevron is pretty undesirable, but for Hijazi, it has its social benefits, as well as its economic ones. Hijazi works the night shift instead of hiring somewhat to do it. He said that he wouldn’t want to burden any of his employees with it, and he doesn’t mind it.

Hijazi said that although there’s a diverse crowd that comes to visit him at night, most nights he has a consistent group of regulars who come by. He considers them his friends, and they usually stay for a few minutes to chat and catch up with him during the late hours of the night.

“My nurse friend, Daniella, comes here every (morning) at 2:15 sharp, except for Sundays, and so does Richard, who I nicknamed ‘the owl,'” he said. He doesn’t have a late working job, but he sleeps at strange hours, so I tease him for that.”

Being the only 24-hour gas station is not the only thing that makes the South Lamar Chevron unique. They also claim to have “the best chicken-on-a-stick in Oxford.” Quite a brave claim for a city with over 15 gas stations, most of whom serve chicken-on-a-stick. But one of the Chevron’s frequent customers, Larry Rodgers, agrees with their slogan and claims he will always return to this gas station for lunch over any other.

Rodgers works at the construction site on the corner Highway 6 and Jackson Avenue.

“I come here every day for lunch,” he said. “Mehdi is my man. Their food is always fresh, and they never have a shortage of anything when I stop in during my lunch break off the construction site. The chicken-on-a-stick is the best, and the potato logs are good too.”

Aside from the night-shift, his daytime employees have a much busier day than Hijazi’s slow-rolling shift. The gas station is buzzing with patrons around lunchtime, and even on such a big lot, it’s fairly hard to find a parking space.

Hijazi cites his devotion to his work, parents and God for his success in his business.

“In our religion, your parents are right below God, and heaven is at your mother’s feet,” Hijazi said. “I treat them with respect and take care of them, and God has taken care of me.”

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