MARQUETTE - Visitors to some area gas stations may notice something missing from the newspaper stands in the coming days, as several stations have decided to pull The Mining Journal from their stores.
The Oasis station at 1240 S. Front St. in Marquette, the Express Oasis station at 378 W. Division St. in Ishpeming, the Refresh N Refuel Oasis at 403 N. Third St. in Ishpeming, the Kountry Korner in Gwinn, Crossroads in Sands Township, Modeltown Express in Gwinn, Dick's Pump & Munch in L'Anse and Krist Oil, which owns 17 Citgo gas stations across the Upper Peninsula, have all pulled The Mining Journal from their stores.
According to Krist Oil President Stan Atanasoff and Vice President Krist Atanasoff, the newspapers have been pulled because of The Mining Journal's support of a proposed Marquette Keweenaw Bay Indian Community gas station.
The Oasis gas station in Marquette — along with two other Oasis stations — area Citgo stations like the Washington Street station, and several other gas retailers, have stopped selling The Mining Journal after a recent editorial urged support of a gas station planned by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community. (Journal photos by Matt Keiser)
In a Wednesday morning phone conversation, Krist Atanasoff cited a recent editorial in support of the new KBIC station as the reason for pulling the newspapers.
"We're not going to do business with your company anymore because all you can say is bad things about us," Atanasoff said while returning an earlier phone call for comment from The Mining Journal. "You're supporting these Indians. They're thieves, they're convicted felons and they're tax evaders."
At this point, when it was confirmed that the comments were being written down, Stan Atanasoff said "end of conversation," and hung up.
We're not going to do business with your company anymore because all you can say is bad things about us. You're supporting these Indians. They're thieves, they're convicted felons and they're tax evaders.
- Krist Atanasoff, Krist Oil vice president
Scott Nyquist, owner of the Kountry Korner and Crossroads stations, said he was pulling the newspapers because of the editorial, as well.
"Why don't they put the price of jewelry or furniture on the front page of the Mining Journal instead of gas prices all the time, start picking on other gougers? We're not gougers in our industry," Nyquist said. "If The Mining Journal feels they can say what they want without doing their homework, I can say what I want too, but the facts will be true."
Dick Bianco, owner of Dick's Pump & Munch, said he didn't believe area gas prices were unfairly set.
"I'm from the L'Anse, Baraga area, but I know Marquette," Bianco said. "They're definitely not making the money they're saying in the paper. We're lucky to make, 3, 4 cents a gallon."
In the June 5 Mining Journal editorial "KBIC should be allowed to build new station" the paper supported the KBIC station, stating the new business would help lower Marquette area gas prices.
"...gasoline is an unregulated commodity, in terms of pump price," the editorial stated. "That fact has opened the door for big oil to gouge. And gouge they have, brazenly, unashamedly. What has been done with prices in the Marquette area borders on the obscene, especially when one considers what's charged in places such as Houghton and Hancock. Now, this cozy arrangement may get kicked to the curb, if the land (for the KBIC gas station) is placed in trust."
According to reports from AAA Michigan, gas prices in the Marquette area were higher than the state average more than 80 percent of the time, when viewed on a weekly basis.
Mining Journal Publisher Jim Reevs said while he respects the right of local businesses to decide what products they wish to sell, he does not agree with the reasoning behind the pulling of the newspaper.
"We will not be bullied into backing off on our concern about the price of gas in the Marquette area because they are boycotting the sale of our newspapers," Reevs said. "As long as Marquette stays consistently as the location with the highest price of gas in the state of Michigan, we will continue to report on this issue and continue to question why that is happening.
"We have been flooded with phone calls and letters to the editor with people's concerns about the price of gas in our area," Reevs added. "It is our job, acting in a watchdog role in the community, to support our subscribers and continue to question the reason for Marquette consistently being the highest price of gas in the state."
Calls for comment to the KBIC, Brooke Ferns of the Oasis stations and the Modeltown Express were not returned by press time today.
Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.