A couple of years ago, a big snowstorm closed local roads.
Concerned that Samer “Sam” Hiba — owner of the Mobil Self-Serve next to Barnes & Noble — might not make it home to Trumbull, a nearby customer called and invited him to sleep at her house.
Not many gas station owners develop those kinds of bonds with their customers.
As of Thursday, there will be one less in Westport.
Tomorrow (Tuesday, September 18) is the last day for Sam’s station.
The gas company informed me that they decided to withdraw from this location only after carefully analyzing the numbers and determining that, unfortunately, the station’s projected long term revenues are not sufficient to justify investing the additional resources necessary to do the mandatory upgrade to the tanks, along with the corresponding improvements to the canopy, pumps and store.
Sam will shut off the pumps at 10 p.m., then spend Wednesday and Thursday cleaning out the station he loves.
He is devastated. So are his many customers — many of whom prefer the word “friend.”
From the day Sam bought the business 5 years ago, his life has been intertwined with the men and women who come in for gas, coffee, snacks and conversation.
He has brightened their days. They’ve supported his major community work: caring for Syrian refugees.
Sam left his native country 25 years ago. He’s now a proud American citizen — as are his 5 children, all of whom were born here. But he’s never forgotten that war-torn nation.
His long list of friends include Westport residents, local businesses, even St. Luke Church. Sister Maureen and the entire staff has been particularly strong supporters of Sam’s Syrian relief efforts.
“From the first day, I loved my customers,” Sam says. “They are part of my family now. They know about my life, and I know about theirs. We chat all the time. I will miss them, big time.”
As customers hear that Sam’s Mobil Self-Serve is closing, they’re shattered. Today and tomorrow they’ll fill his small but well-stocked mini-mart, and say thanks.
“I see their tears and concern for me,” Sam says. “That’s very special.”
He promises to keep in touch with his customers — er, friends. He knows they’ll do the same.
Yet life on that stretch of the Post Road will never be quite the same.