CIRCLEVILLE — Duchess held its grand reopening following months-long renovations to the gas station and convenience store on East Main Street.
While the store had been open and operating since earlier in the year, the family behind Englefield Oil — the parent company of Duchess stores, was in town to talk about their history, family connections and desire to improve the site, which wasn’t in the best shape.
Ben Englefield, president, said they want to be a positive impact to the community and that was one of the reasons they made the changes. He said the previous store was “falling down” and they needed to shut down or renovate.
“We were becoming a negative impact at this location,” he said.
“Unfortunately, old businesses and locations like that attract not-so-savory people and [Circleville Mayor Don McIlroy] just told me we were having police calls here once a day and we haven’t had one since we’ve opened the new building.
“That’s what we want. We don’t want to be an eye sore in any community, especially one with our name on it.”
Englefield told The Herald the family started the store in Circleville as it was a logical place to expand from the stores they had at the time in Lancaster in the 1970s.
“We had three or four locations in Lancaster, and Circleville was the next town over,” he said.
“This has been a very good store, our inside sales have been fantastic. We love this location and we’ve been trying to buy the former paint store for years.”
Englefield said they had desires to buy the next building down to expand further, but after hearing about the historic nature of the building and some pushback from the community, they decided to forgo that option.
“I don’t want to tear down that a part of a town’s history; nobody does,” he said. “We were able to do it on this footprint and it’s tighter than we normally would build, but it’s working and it’s a lot nicer than what we had.”
Englefield said the renovations are more than what are visible to customers and visitors to the store; there are added safety features to the gas tanks.
“The tank systems in the lines, everything is double walled and monitored,” he said.
“If anything leaks, you know it immediately before it ever gets into the ground. That was one of the other reasons we wanted to build, was to update it from an environmental standpoint.
“That’s important to us because not only is bad environment costly to us, but it’s not good for the neighbors and the community and we want to be a good community member in every community.”
Englefield, who started working for his father as soon as he was old enough to pump gas, reflected on the changes of Duchess and Englefield Oil.
“Back in 1961, we didn’t have convenience stores; we just had bays where we did oil changes and sold gas out front,” he said. “Our first convenience store was in Lancaster in 1971 on Broad Street. We’ve expanded to all convenience stores now.”
Englefield said it was great to work with his father, who died three years ago, and his family, including brother F.W. Englefield IV, who’s also president; his daughter Ashley Englefield DeWitt, who is a vice president with the company.
“I always had other dreams, my mom’s family is all dentists and I wanted to be a dentist until I realized how much school you had to do and school and I weren’t the greatest,” he said.
“I’ve always loved this business, I loved my dad’s passion for the business and he gave it to me, and most of our family is working in the business.”
Englefield said he wished his father was still here to see the updated stores.
“He was proud of all his children and grandchildren,” he said.
“I wish he was here to see it all now. He’d be so tickled. He’d love this Circleville store.”