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Forreston gas station opens back up for business

Forreston Gas & Food, 209 N. Walnut Ave., opened back up for business in mid-March after half a decade of vacancy. Photo by Zach Arbogast.
Forreston Gas & Food, 209 N. Walnut Ave., opened back up for business in mid-March after half a decade of vacancy. Photo by Zach Arbogast.

After a five-year hiatus, the pumps are flowing again at a Forreston gas station.

Forreston Gas & Food, 209 N. Walnut Ave., officially started pumping gas in mid-March, the first time since Smitty’s Pantry closed in December of 2012.

“I think it was basically just finding the right person who was willing to take the time and the money to get this going again, and eventually they found that right person,” said Jeannie Merriman, store manager.

That person in question is Hemendra Shah, who owns gas stations around Illinois in Elgin and Beach Park, and out of state in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Merriman became his manager when she approached Shah inside the building while it was being worked on.

“I came right in because I saw action going on, and I told them I has experience running a storefront,” said Merriman. “It worked out perfectly, and I started immediately.”

It took a couple more weeks, and Shah shipping in goods from his other stores to expedite the process, but by the beginning of April, the store opened up.

Getting the building ready was not without work; Merriman said the building’s water system was in disarray.

“The water was huge; the meter was completely broken, and we had 12 leaks we had to repair throughout the building,” said Merriman. “It definitely took its toll from sitting for five years, but we fixed it, and it’s going well.”

Above the register, “Smitty’s Pantry” is still fully visible, but Merriman said BP is having the interior and exterior of the store painted int he coming weeks to match the new “Forreston Gas & Food” name.

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