Gas Prices Top $4 Mark in Moore County
Gasoline prices in Moore County have surpassed the milestone of $4 a gallon.
A gallon of regular unleaded gas was a staggering $4.05 Monday afternoon at the Exxon station in Seven Lakes -- the highest so far in Moore County, according to an informal survey of stations around the county.
The Shortstop/Exxon Station on N.C. 5 in Pinehurst near the bowling alley was the only other station known to be above the $4 mark. That station was selling regular gasoline at $4.03 as of Monday morning.
Several other stations in the Southern Pines/Pinehurst/Aberdeen area, as well as one in Robbins, showed prices of $3.99.
Carthage appeared to have the lowest prices, ranging from $3.87 to $3.91 a gallon.
Penny Laverdure, manager of the Shortstop on N.C. 5, said that while her customers have commented on the astronomical price of gas, no one has been too upset about it.
"We haven't really gotten any complaints," Laverdure said. "Our corporate office sets the prices. I don't have anything to do with it."
Laverdure said she gets the feeling that motorists are starting to understand that high gas prices are the reality.
The Associated Press reported Monday that a barrel of oil is now selling close to a whopping $140. With oil demand at a record high, there appears to be no end in sight. The spike in price arrives just in time for summer and should significantly impact both motor and air travel.
A recent Rand McNally survey showed that two thirds of drivers taking a road trip this summer have made changes to their itinerary because of gas prices. Additionally, several U.S.-based airlines have completely shut down in the past few months because the price of jet fuel made it impossible for the carriers to break even.
Even though gas prices in Moore County are still below the national average, which is at $4.04 a gallon according to AAA, small business owners in the area said they are getting squeezed. The cost of driving to and from work has gotten progressively more expensive and these entrepreneurs are having to find ways to save money.
Richard Wilber, who owns Raw Wood Inc. in Pinehurst and specializes in cabinet construction and remodeling, said he is starting to feel the strain of the higher gas prices. He said he is being forced to tack on fuel surcharges to his customers to alleviate some of the burden.
"It's starting to get a little ridiculous," he said. "I work in construction, so I do a lot of driving. Every trip costs a lot of money. It's starting to eat into my profit."
Wilber said the cost of filling up his Chevrolet Silverado pickup has doubled. To offset the high prices, he doesn't put as much fuel in.
"I used to spend about 60 bucks a week filling this up," he said. "Now it's like 120. You can definitely feel it."
The high oil prices have done more than make driving more expensive. In the food service industry, gasoline has sent food prices through the roof. Restaurant owners are being forced to be more selective about what products they buy and increase prices of items on their menus.
Rhett Morris, who owns a restaurant and catering service in downtown Southern Pines, said he has had no choice but to charge more because of higher gas prices.
"The price of high-end beef has gone up $4 to $5 a pound," Morris said. "As a result, my catering prices have gone up."
Morris also said that he keeps an eye on where he and his employees drive for catering services. While local jobs do not hurt the business significantly, he said longer trips outside of the county can almost be too costly. Morris said he insists on providing his employees with gas money as a result.
The landscaping industry has also been severely affected by fuel costs.
Jeff Zegel, who owns a landscaping business in the area, said he has been forced to add a $20 surcharge to his customers' bills. Like Wilber, Zegel said the cost of gas has doubled over the past two years. He said every aspect of landscaping has been impacted significantly.
"Anything related to this business has gone up at least 20 percent in price," Zegel said. "Even the price of tree bark has gone up a lot. It's affected everybody in this business."
Zegel attributes much of the financial problems in landscaping to the soaring price of diesel fuel, which is selling at an average of $4.69 a gallon. Many landscapers, including Zegel, purchased equipment that runs on diesel to avoid the high gasoline costs. Zegel said no one predicted diesel would surpass gasoline in price.
Some business owners have managed to avoid taking hits from the high fuel prices, but still feel the burn in their wallet.
Denise Wilson, who runs her own cleaning business that serves up to 25 properties a week, said that while gas prices have not negatively impacted her business, she tries to be more fuel efficient with her work.
"I just used to go back and forth from one job, now I just try to do everything at once," Wilson said. "[Gas] hasn't affected my business, but it's affected me personally. I'm just more careful now."
Wilson said she is concerned that high gas prices eventually will begin to hurt her business as well as others.
With the cost of a barrel of oil continuing to rise, Moore County drivers could be in for a long -- and expensive -- summer.
Contact John Krahnert at 693-2478 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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