Biz Beat

Vineyard gas stations in Salida, Ceres to add electric chargers

New electric charging station at the Vineyard gas station on Kiernan in Salida on Aug. 13, 2015.
New electric charging station at the Vineyard gas station on Kiernan in Salida on Aug. 13, 2015.

Electric cars, it would seem, are the enemy of traditional gasoline stations.

Jeff LeBeouf doesn’t see it that way. The president of E.R. Vine & Sons, a Valley petroleum distributor that has been around for more than 80 years, sees electricity as an opportunity.

“When I started 35 years ago, I kinda saw the handwriting on the wall,” LeBeouf said. “I told myself in the early stages of my career here, whatever source of energy is going to power cars and trucks, we will be a distribution center for that.”

LeBeouf kept his word, and soon electric car owners will be able to “gas up” at the company’s two local Vineyard stations in Salida and Ceres.

“We will be able to charge any electric car on the road, from a Tesla to a Chevrolet Volt,” LeBeouf said. Though there are charging stations at some businesses – nearly four years ago, I wrote about a hotel along Interstate 5 in Patterson installing them – LeBeouf believes his are the first gasoline stations in the state to offer the service.

Some car companies, such as Nissan and BMW, include charging for a year or two in the purchase. For other customers, it will cost about $8 per charge.

The 440-volt stations can charge a car in about 20 minutes, compared with the hours a home charger takes, LeBeouf said.

That 20 minutes provides another opportunity for the company: “Very large, modern convenience stores with full-blown delicatessens,” LeBeouf said. “(Drivers have) gotta do something for 20 minutes. They’ll at least get a cup of coffee.”

ELSEWHERE AROUND THE BUSINESS BEAT: I got a note recently from Anthony J. Varni, president of another longtime business, 7UP Bottling Co. of Modesto.

I went to elementary school with Tony Varni, way back in the last century (yikes). In his note, he mentioned two things. The first, a new packaging for one of the company’s products: Noah’s Spring Water. The water now comes in an aluminum “capcan.” The new packaging has several attributes, he said: “The aluminum recycling rates are much higher than plastic bottle rates, even though PET plastic is 100 percent recyclable. The aluminum capcan does stay colder longer than plastic bottles, and the smooth, wide-mouth opening provides for better flow and gives the consumer better mouth feel compared to the rougher threaded, smaller openings at the top of typical water bottles. People like that the capcan is resealable and refillable.”

Also, it looks pretty cool and stands out on the shelf.

The other thing Tony told me is that his dad, John, who turned 90 last month, still comes in to work every day. How neat is that? Happy birthday, Mr. Varni!

▪ A sad note out of Turlock: Henry’s, a longtime restaurant in Scandia Village on Golden State Boulevard in Turlock, has closed.

Many thanks to my friend Pennie Rorex for the tip. I’m not sure what happened to Henry’s, but the phone number is disconnected. If anyone has any idea, let me know.

In the meantime, it looks like the spot won’t be unoccupied for long. According to Pennie, a sign at the restaurant notes that a “Kabob Pizza” is coming soon.