By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
SOUTH HERO -- The owners of a leading Vermont-based convenience store chain say they hope to have Island Beverage and Redemption in South Hero in full operation by the end of the month.
Joe Handy, whose family operates a string of Simon’s convenience stores mostly in Chittenden County, said the South Hero purchase should be complete in the next three weeks.
In an interesting twist, Simon’s Island Beverage plans to offer Mobil gasoline, obtained from R.L. “ Skip” Vallee, a St. Albans-based fuel distributor, Handy said.
Vallee has proposed to build a 2,000 square-foot Maplefields Convenience Store with fuel pumps on the backside of McKee’s Pub on a 4.7 acre lot adjoining Island Beverage.
Vallee declined on Monday to say if the sale by Tim and Kelly Cota to the Handy family will impact his application for Maplefields.
“Joe asked if we would supply them with Mobil and we are happy to accommodate,” Vallee said in a phone interview.
Joe Handy said his family has an excellent working relationship for two generations with Vallee. He said Mobil gasoline, which had been offered by Island Beverage until a few months ago, is liked by customers and has a good price.
“We will stick with Mobil,” Handy said. That raises questions about what Maplefields would offer if the application proceeds.
“I’m not sure what his plans are,” Handy said about Vallee’s application.
The South Hero Development Review Board held one hearing Aug. 28 on Vallee’s request. The hearing is due to resume Feb. 26.
South Hero Zoning Administrator Martha Taylor-Varney said Monday she has not heard anything new. She asked Vallee to have any site plan updates filed with the town by Feb. 1 so they can be reviewed and shared with the board before its meeting on Feb. 26.
Handy said Island Beverage will be the 20th convenience store for the family and its first in Grand Isle County. Among Simon’s stores is one at Chimney Corners on U.S. 2 & 7 in Colchester.
Besides the Chittenden County locations, Simon’s also has stores in Montpelier, Waitsfield and Enfield, N.H., Handy said.
Handy said his business is in the process of obtaining its final permits from the state.
He said the gasoline pumps and canopy also are needed.
The plan is to open as soon as possible and there may be some renovation in the store. He said other changes may be possible down the line.
The Cotas had confirmed to The Islander on Dec. 1 that a purchase and sales agreement had been reached with an undisclosed buyer for the business and land at U.S. 2 and Ferry Road.
Multiple attempts in recent days to get an update from the Cotas have been unsuccessful. They had operated the popular store and redemption center for 19½ years.
Vallee had expressed interest last year in buying Island Beverage, but the deal fell through when it was reduced to writing and the sellers had concerns, co-owner Tim Cota has said. Another attempt recently also failed.
During the Development Review Board meeting some local residents had expressed disappointment with Vallee’s plan. They thought the location would lead to major traffic issues and the area was well served between Island Beverage and the nearby Keeler Bay Variety.
The state has plans to upgrade the intersection, including adding a full-cycle traffic light. Ferry Road, which comes into U.S. 2 at an angle also would be squared off, the town has said.