Americans love having choices. From the brand of clothes we put on in the morning, to the type of food we eat for lunch, to the make and model of the vehicles that take us to and from work, we choose what best suits our needs.
That’s the philosophy that motivates Kent Satrang, CEO of Petro Serve USA, and his chain of popular gas stations stretching across North Dakota and Minnesota. While in much of the United States drivers are forced to use a blend of gasoline known as E10 — a mixture of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol — Satrang’s stations are dedicated to giving Americans the freedom to choose what they put in their cars and trucks.
“We like to give our customers a choice at the pump so that they can choose what works best for their cars,” Satrang said. “They don’t want the president of the United States or a president of a big oil company to decide ‘This is the product I should use in my vehicle.’ They’d like to make that choice themselves.”
And at Satrang’s stations, they can. His stations always have a wide range of fuels available, offering 100 percent gasoline, E10, E15, E30, and E85 as well as blends of soy diesel. What’s more, Satrang firmly believes that the fuels he offers should compete on an even playing field, and he always applies the same mark-up to all his fuels.
The results have been nothing short of spectacular.
“Including ethanol has been great for business,” Satrang said. “Our company has doubled in size five times over the last 15 years, going from $10 million in sales to about $180 million now.”
Satrang attributes his company’s success to the competitive advantage that offering so many choices brings to his stores. Since no other gas stations in North Dakota or Minnesota offer the same range of fuels, Petro Serve USA sees more business from people of all different backgrounds, with wide varieties of vehicles. Whether it’s families who want to save 15 cents per gallon by buying E15, farmers with equipment that requires pure gasoline, truck drivers with diesel-powered eighteen-wheelers, or gearheads with flex-fuel vehicles who simply prefer high ethanol blends like E85 for its high octane rating and reduced cost, they all head to Petro Serve USA to fill up.
Furthermore, because additional people are coming to his gas stations, Petro Serve USA is also seeing increased sales for the other products they offer, like pizza, cookies and soda, or “pop,” as he calls it.
But for Satrang, it’s not just the influx of business that drives his mission to give Americans the ability to choose their own fuel. He also sees it as a moral obligation.
“It’s revitalizing rural America, it’s cutting down our dependence on foreign oil, which means we don’t have to send soldiers overseas to fight — I’ve had a son-in-law that’s gone over there twice — and it’s also helping clean up our air too, our environment,” he said. “Why wouldn’t you want to help the people in the rural communities that come in and buy your products, and go to church in your community? I’d rather do that than buy overseas oil.”
Considering Petro Serve USA’s success, it appears so would large numbers of Americans. We certainly love having choices.