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Big changes at Simpsonville center

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Friendly Mart, Valero move in, The Winner’s Circle tripling space

By Steve Doyle

An old commercial strip center on U.S. 60 at the east end of Simpsonville is in the midst of a lot of new.

First, as of Wednesday, the former Short Stop store now will be Friendly Mart No. 1, joining a regional chain of stores, and will change from Gulf gasoline to Valero as soon as today, new owner Raj Singh said.

And The Winner’s Circle, a horse supply store that opened last year in the center, is tripling its space in the center, taking over additional store fronts that now stand vacant.

The convenience store was closed Wednesday to allow Singh to assume control, and on Thursday, the name “Short Stop” had been blacked out on the store’s marquee, and there was a new short-order cook on duty inside the store. The coffee service had changed, and some new drink machines had been added.

Singh, who lives in Louisville, said he has other stores in Jefferson and Franklin counties. He declined to specify the purchase price, saying only that he “bought the inventory.”

“We buy gas stations,” he said. “Nothing special goes with the deal. There are big guys [chain owners/fuel distributors who work that out.”

Other than the name and the gasoline, Singh said there would be few other changes.

“We’re going to improve the deli, have a professional cook in there,” he said. “And we’ll probably lower some prices.”

Short Stop had owned the store for several years, and in 2010 it had returned Gulf gasoline to Shelby County after losing Texaco fuel as part of Chevron’s withdrawal from Kentucky.

The person who answered the telephone at the Short Stop headquarters in Louisville confirmed the sale of the store, but he referred questions about specifics to company president Jeff Holbrook. A phone message left for Holbrook by The Sentinel-Newswas not returned by press time.

Simpsonville also has a Hucks Food Store, a Pilot Truck Stop and a BP station to compete with Singh’s store.

New faces in Shelby County’s convenience store lineup  have been arriving frequently in the past few months. Valero and Cowboy Food Marts joined the market at three locations around Shelbyville – one of which has yet to open –  and Circle K took over management of the Shell Station on Mount Eden Road.

David Thomas, president of The Winner’s Circle, which his family has owned for 40 years, said the store has been “doing really well” and that he believes the expansion will be complete in the next three weeks.

“We’re not moving,” he said. “We’re just taking up more of the strip mall.”

He said he anticipates that the store could become the busiest of the three in his chain, which includes outlets in Shelbyville, Tenn., and Lewisburg, Tenn., and that he plans to open a new store soon in Lexington. “We’re looking to expand,” he said.

He said the expansion in Simpsonville – which has it in direct competition with Shelby Horse Supply and Metzger’s Country Store, both also on U.S. 60 – would bring in new product lines, too. The store has a fairly diverse inventory.

“We will be getting more into English attire and equipment,” Thomas said. “as well as trail riding. We will add Circle Y and Tucker saddles to our line.”