by Allegra Walls
The BP Gas station, located at 807 W. Atkinson, has been a staple in the community since opening in August of 1990. This particular gas station is the only African American-owned station left in the city of Milwaukee.
The station is extremely clean, safe, well lit and inviting. It’s located right off of HWY 43, so it’s extremely convenient to stop and make a point to support the business. The mission of its owner, Diane Stowers, is all about service; her motto is “in the community for the community.”
This family-owned business was originally the brainchild of Stowers’ late husband , Jimmy who loved cars and could fix anything. The business began as an auto repair shop and an Amoco gas station. It was then expanded into the convenience store and the garage portion of the business was closed.
Like any business, with turbulent economic times, the industry and profit margins vary. As such, over the years, as any good business owner would, Stowers has adapted to socioeconomic changes. It is important to support black owned businesses like Stowers, in the inner city.
Stowers’ southern background, Christian upbringing and keen business sense are the foundation of her business. She believes that cleanliness is next to Godliness, as such the outside grounds are spotless well-maintained. It is not uncommon to see an employee diligently cleaning the windows or picking up debris on the lot.
This attention to detail and meticulousness translates to the onsite kitchen as well. The kitchen is run by her daughter Ramona and while it may fall under the category of “fast food,” there are items on the menu made with her special southern touch like a chicken or fish dinner. From breakfast, lunch and dinner there are various options available, including coffee, cappuccino and an assortment of healthy options, like fresh produce and fruit juices.
The gas prices are right on target with other competing stations in the area, but the warm inviting smiles, attentiveness and customer service is something that cannot be purchased. To be a part of a community, and to care about the people who comprise it comes from living and working with the people with a sense of pride and dedication. Stowers, her family and her business truly embody these qualities.
As for the future of the business, there are several great ideas in the works, that will generate more revenue, but most importantly more jobs for the community. Stowers would like to expand by installing more tanks and dig out the hill in the back of her station to build a car wash. She would also like to add a UHaul franchise business, which would create at least five more available positions.
When the BP is able to expand and add on to the business, this will keep more revenue in the community, and in the consumer’s pockets, which is a key goal for African American business owners like Diane Stowers.
Allegra Walls is a Marquette University graduate, freelance writer and executive director of Urban Fresh Inc. a non-profit in Milwaukee.
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