Ben’s Pioneer Gas Bar re-opens today

Ben's Pioneer Gas Bar proprietor Ben Henry (left) and Parkland Fuel Corp. Project Manager Logan Baker, yesterday at the revamped County Rd. 31 gas station that was then just hours away from re-opening. Smith photo, Nation Valley News

Kelsey Smith
Nation Valley News

WINCHESTER — Winchester will be put on the retail map this morning as Pioneer Gas opens Canada’s flagship Pioneer On the Run store — where gas and diesel are also back again after months of construction to revamp at the County Rd. 31 site. (Caffeine addicts will have to wait just a little longer before the new Tim Horton’s outlet goes into service.)

Update: As of early this evening, the station has opened for business. 

It will be the first Pioneer on the Run convenience store to be built from the ground up in Canada, according to the developer. From now on, every new Pioneer convenience store built from scratch will be identical to the Winchester location.

After four months of closure, this has been a much-anticipated opening. In fact, Ben’s Pioneer Gas Bar proprietor Ben Henry joked that lately there have been “55 people per day stopping at the pumps,” asking to fill up.

There are a whopping 10 pumps available for use, as of this morning (Jan. 26). “Six gas and four diesel,” said Henry, who has leased the facility as business operator for 31 years.

The diesel pumps are located on each end for convenience and better accessibility for everyone.

Former customers will be amazed at the ‘big’ changes in the new store.  The new, grander structure is 2500 square feet, up from the original store’s 400!

“I outgrew my space,” observed Henry.

It’s a bigger store with even bigger selection.

There will be several new items available in the store including Slush Puppy slushies, F’Real milkshakes, fresh produce and food, as well as automotive necessities.

Henry is overjoyed by the outcome.

“The layout is great! It’s going to be good,” he said yesterday, during harried final preparations for today.

Sixteen cameras and emergency lighting have been installed.

“In my old store we didn’t have any emergency lighting, we used candles,” he laughed.

He also explained that he is lucky enough to have loyal employees, all them returning to work for him. His two daughters have also joined the team. There may be need for more workers at some point.

Parkland Fuel Corporation developed the ideas and handled the entire construction project.

Logan Baker of Parkland has overseen the build as project manager for the last five months.

The digging process began August 25 and the store officially shut down exactly one month later.

Mike Dietrich, Parkland’s ‘car wash guy’ as he calls himself, is the Facilities Maintenance person. He has also been here since the beginning and explained that all construction has its challenges.

He was amazed by the amount of teamwork that has gone on to get the project up and running.

“Everybody contributes to a build like this. It’s a whole team effort.” he added.

Pioneer also shares the building with Tim Horton’s new, second location for Winchester — a collaboration years in the making.

Ben Henry and local Tim Hortons franchisee Robert St. Denis have been dreaming about this for the past few years.

Unfortunately due to unforeseen setbacks the Canadian coffee shop chain will not be open until mid-week next week.

St. Denis explained that for years he’s had customers come up to him saying there have been times where they looked at the drive-thru or parking lot of his existing Winchester location and just kept driving because of how busy it is.

He knew he had to do something about that.

“It’s always busy here. This will take the pressure off,” he continued.

The new outlet at the Pioneer station, his fourth franchise location in the region and about a kilometre away from his first Winchester doughnut shop, will offer everything a typical Tim Horton’s does — except a place to sit.

Service will be walk-in or drive-through only. Although smaller in scale on the inside, it has the familiar interior colours and look and feel of a Tim’s, with two cashes and a centre showcase. There is a stand-up counter around the perimeter, allowing customers to eat on their feet.

St. Denis said the outlet will offer the sandwiches, soups and baked goods that everyone expects, but with just a little less variety because of the smaller footprint. It will, of course, have the same chain-wide promotions like roll up the rim.

He’s now hiring to staff the new place, advising: “Drop resumes off here or online.”

The Tim Horton’s portion of the gas station will be open days and afternoons. Hours are not yet “100 percent set,” he conceded, adding he’s thinking of 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The original location at 12105 Main Street will remain open 24/7. The combination of two Tim’s working in tandem — one full size, the other a satellite — is a first for Eastern Ontario, he said.

Asked about any changes since the minimum wage increase, St. Denis was quick to say, “No comment,” then later added, “We haven’t been affected any different than anyone else really, I guess.”

“It’s a one-stop shop. Sip your coffee on the way through,” said Henry.

Patrons can also make use of a new touchless car wash, which will be up and running for today’s in-service date, he said. “It’s all or nothing.”

And for those snowmobiling on the nearby trail, they’re still very much welcome and encouraged to fuel their machines up at the station.

Today is the “soft opening” for the site. They say a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned when the weather gets nicer.

Smith photo, Nation Valley News

The Tim Horton’s outlet is expected to open mid-week, next week. Smith photo, Nation Valley News

The new On the Run-brand convenience store — Pioneer Gas’s template for the rest of Canada. Smith photo, Nation Valley News

The site also features a touchless car wash. Smith photo, Nation Valley News

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