BP's gulf oil problems have shed popular media light on how owning a gas station as a franchisee works.

Someone decides they want to start a gas station. They send requests to major gas brands (Marathon, BP, Shell, etc.) asking if they would accept their station as an affiliate.

The fun begins when stations open, close and change names. I bought gas yesterday at a rural station that had four different names in the recent past. It had been a BP (or perhaps even an Amoco before the buyout!), a Marathon, and an Energy Plus 24 (now CountryMark). Yesterday, though, it was operating without a gasoline brand.

I'm curious what people around town refer to it as. I would bet that most of them still think of it as one of its former brand names, probably the one which it held the longest. People tend to have resistance to changing brands. For example, a station nearby me dropped Shell's brand three years ago, and people still refer to it as Shell. Even people who weren't in the neighborhood when it was a Shell.

This is bad. Shell has a reputation for being high-priced (at least here). BP has a reputation for spilling a few million gallons of oil. Chevron and Phillips 66 have pulled out of Indiana. So a lot of station owners have switched to un-branded or self-branded gasoline or Marathon. According to GasBuddy.com, my city has 90 stations total, and 21 of them bear the Marathon M. The next largest brand is Shell with 7 of the 90. The un-branded and self-branded grouping (which I arbitrarily define as brands with less than 10 stations nationwide and includes grocery brands) has 17.

A simple listing of the major brands locally (italics were included in the "un- or self-branded" list, bold indicates "corporate" ownership):

  • Marathon - 21
  • Shell - 7
  • Buy Low - 6
  • No Brand - 6
  • Thornton's - 6
  • Casey's - 4
  • Huck's - 4
  • Kangaroo - 4
  • MotoMart - 4
  • CountryMark - 3
  • Busler - 3
  • Chuckles - 3

That totals out to 74 of the 90 stations. For the other 16, feel free to look in the master station list at GasBuddy.com.