Pumps at the Broad Street Citgo gas station. Facebook

Due to financial hard­ships and a sudden change in own­ership, Team One Food Store and the Citgo gas station on South Broad Street closed Monday, leaving more than 14 workers unem­ployed.

Mick Ritter, owner of Team One Food Store since he founded it in 1990, said in an interview with The Col­legian that he could not comment on any­thing related to finances, lit­i­gation, or other affairs with the gas station. Watkins Oil, the property owner for the station’s on-site con­ve­nience store, is shutting down the business tem­porarily to remodel and reopen Ritter’s old store.

“All I can say is that, as of right now, Watkins Oil is taking control of the oper­ation,” Ritter said. “But I cannot dis­close my location right now.”

Ritter was also a pre­vious part-owner in Broad Street Downtown Market and Tavern, which closed its doors in late January due to high oper­ating costs and unpaid property taxes. Dave Watkins, owner of Watkins Oil, was also a part owner of the pub and restaurant. Ritter would not comment on any of the par­tic­ulars with Watkins Oil, and said he didn’t want to give any more infor­mation.

“Never missed a payroll, every employee was paid for every hour worked,” Ritter said in a message.

Ritter said he owed no money in rent to Watkins Oil, and, according to the Hillsdale Trea­surer Clerk’s office, all property taxes since 2014 have been paid.

Watkins Oil declined numerous requests to comment, but employees from the company were seen doing main­te­nance on gas pumps and cleanup on the building on Wednesday.

Ritter’s was one of four Citgo gas sta­tions between Hillsdale and Jonesville, and its sudden closure came as a shock to many local res­i­dents. Levi Shilling, who would come in three times a week for a soft drink, said he was sur­prised that when he drove up to the store on Monday he couldn’t get any gas.

“I went into the station Monday morning to get a pop and all the pumps were bagged off,” Shilling said.  “The clerk said there was no gas and she said Mick Ritter was no longer man­aging and David Watkins was.”

A former employee of Team One, who requested to remain anonymous, said employees were informed by Ritter and man­agement during a staff meeting on Sunday that they’d be closing their doors starting noon Monday, but employees’ jobs would still be secure.

“Mick told all the employees at Team One that he’d filed for bank­ruptcy at that meeting,” the employee said. “And that while Watkins Oil was taking over they’d be closed for only a couple of days while they switch their systems over. We wouldn’t lose any pay or vacation time and it would be a smooth tran­sition.”

Asked about bank­ruptcy, Ritter said his attorney advised him not to comment.

The employee said they met with man­agement at Watkins Oil the fol­lowing day, and Watkins Oil said it wouldn’t be as simple as Ritter and Team One man­agement said it would.

“Watkins Oil told us that they ran into some legal issues and they didn’t know how long it would take. Maybe a couple days, weeks, or even months,” the employee said. “They said ‘We are going to strongly encourage you to file an appli­cation with us, and you should also file for unem­ployment because as of noon today you all are unem­ployed.’”

The sign Citgo owner Mick Ritter dis­played after closing Monday. Thomas Novelly | Col­legian

In the wake of both Team One and Broad Street Downtown Market and Tavern’s recent clo­sures, cus­tomers and employees have stated numerous com­plaints with Ritter’s man­agement. Hillsdale res­ident Joseph Hendee said he would go into Team One everyday and it was apparent the business was strug­gling.

“I was in that store every morning,” Hendee said. “The women at Team One would tell me that their pay­checks bounced and they had to pay them­selves out of the till. Almost every day we talked about Broad Street closing and they told me it was dragging the gas station down with it.”

Broad Street employees also voiced similar problems with Ritter’s man­agement. Natasha Crall was the former manager at Broad Street Downtown Market and Tavern from November 2013 to March of 2014, and said, based on her expe­rience, she was not sur­prised to see Team One close sud­denly.                                                                      

“There is no con­ceivable reason a gas station should fail,” Crall said. “All I can attest to is Mick’s history of alien­ating vendors when I was at Broad Street, and that we had shutoff notices for elec­tricity on occasion among other issues. If he ran Team One like he ran Broad Street, then what hap­pened is no sur­prise.”
Some of Ritter’s former employees, however, expressed sym­pathy for his sit­u­ation.

Penny Wingate met Ritter in 1990 and was hired to serve as the first manager of Team One Food Store. She said she left in 2009 to help Ritter open Broad Street along with her husband Chris Wingate.

“In all due respect for my former employer I will not spec­ulate his financial position or any­thing else that caused him to make this dif­ficult decision,” Penny Wingate said. “I do know he is at retirement age, and although I don’t believe this would have been his plan, it is not sur­prising to see him close up. Running a 24-hour store is tough work.”

Several employees have filed for unem­ployment and also sub­mitted appli­ca­tions to work for Watkins Oil. But the uncer­tainty of when the gas station will reopen scares some of the former employees.

“Everyone is scared,” the employee said. “I had a job, and then on Monday, I didn’t. Neither do the 14 others who worked here.”  


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Thomas Novelly
Collegian Editor-in-Chief, Thomas Novelly was born in Novi, Michigan, but was raised in Franklin, Tennessee, making him a self-proclaimed "Yankee gone South." Thomas began writing for The Collegian as a sophomore, and since has served as a reporter, columnist, and Assistant City News Editor. He has also worked for two major publications, interning at the Washington Free Beacon in D.C. and The Tennessean in Nashville. His work has been seen in National publications such as CBS News, National Review Online, Stars And Stripes, and USA Today. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.