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Petro Pete's nozzles under new ownership

"It's fun," Michele Mahowald, left, said of Petro Pete's ownership with husband Shawn. "We're busy all the time." Michele serves as bookkeeper, manager and till operator. Shawn's duties include outside maintenance. A customer appreciation day is planned for later this spring. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

New faces are greeting customers at Petro Pete's on Highway 71 south.

Shawn and Michele Mahowald have added the convenience store and gas station to their business holdings, which include Highway 71 South Mini-Storage and Izzy's Machine and Welding (a continuation of a family business).

"It's a fun job," said Michele, the former director of Hubbard County Housing and Redevelopment Authority. "A different environment."

Shawn, who'd been doing work at the station for the past decade, learned the enterprise was about to be up for sale last fall.

"You want to buy a gas station?" he asked Michele.

"No," had been her initial reply, tempered with a suggestion to view a Phase One study on the site, to determine if there were any potential environmental concerns.

By February, they'd reached the conclusion it was a prudent investment, the construction of the new J&B buoying their enthusiasm. The business received partial funding through the Minnesota Community Development Corporation.

"It happened quickly," Michele said of the three-week purchase transaction.

The original gas and service station has been a fixture in Park Rapids for years. The Mahowalds purchased the business from Bill Emison, whose father bought the station in 1992. The Emisons, Mantrap Lake summer residents, owned several convenience stores in the Twin Cities area.

The building was remodeled in 1997 to accommodate the changing market.

Petro Pete's is a full-line convenience store, offering gas and diesel fuel for on- and off-road vehicles. Popcorn is free, as is coffee with a fill. Lottery tickets are sold at the store.

Plans call for adding items, including Alligator Ice, a "slushie" machine. An ATM machine is on site.

The business has customer incentives, including gas punch cards and soon-to-be-available gas coupons, offering 3 cents off per gallon. (Watch for them in future editions of the Enterprise.)

Petro Pete's is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week.

A customer appreciation day is planned for later this spring.