Talking shop with Laura Younghouse, owner of Midwest Energy

Monday, August 3, 2009
Laura Younghouse with an antique fuel pump. (Kit Doyle)

Cape Girardeau native Laura Younghouse is the owner of Midwest Energy, which has 11 Amerimarts under the Sinclair and BP brands. Younghouse purchased the business in 1993. Southeast Missourian business reporter Brian Blackwell sat down with Younghouse to learn more about her start in the industry, what she believes about the state of the gas business and other aspects of her life.

Q: What are your hobbies, community involvement and family you have now?

A: My hobbies include golf and swimming. I am a member of St. Vincent de Paul Church, the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Convenience Stores. I also serve on the Health Development Board of [Saint Francis Medical Center], the advisory board of Montgomery Bank, the board of directors of the Missouri Petroleum Marketers Association and Convenience Stores and was the past school board president of St. Vincent de Paul. I am married to Rob Younghouse and have two daughters, Andrea, 13, and Ashlee, 11. I stay very involved in their school and extracurricular activities.

Q: Who motivated you to be the person you are today?

A: I would say my parents and grandmother were wonderful role models for me. My grandmother was a very good businesswoman. She started her own business, Day Transfer Moving and Storage, and taught me that hard work and dedication makes you a strong person. My father was the one I got my positive attitude from. He was always an optimistic man. He never saw the glass half empty, always half full. He passed away in 2002. I will always try to live my life with great attitude and optimism, as he did, both in my personal and professional life. My mother is my lifeline. I cannot tell you all the sacrifices she has made and continues to make in her life for us. She is always there for me and has always guided me in the right direction. The person that supports and motivates me the most is my husband, Rob. We work very well together in good times and bad and are a great support to each other every single day.

Laura Younghouse (Kit Doyle)

Q: What is your idea of a day off from work?

A: A day off would include my husband and children without any phones or interruptions. Just family time!

Q: How did you get into your current position today?

A: Hard work, dedication, being able to accept some risk, and most of all, faith.

Q: Did you ever think you'd be owning gas stations? What experiences in your past led you to it?

A: Not really. I worked for my former boss for 13 years. I learned all aspects of the business. He retired in 1993 and I was fortunate enough to buy some of the properties from him.

Q: Gas prices seem to be under fire by the public. What is important to tell folks about the difference in prices in each town?

A: Like any other commodity, gasoline prices change on a daily basis. Supply and demand, logistics, volume and competition drives the price. Some areas are more rural and the volume may not be as great as the more populated areas. Therefore, the product may not turn as fast, causing the differential in product costs in the tank. Some locations are located closer to the pipeline, making the freight cheaper to deliver the fuel. Whenever there is a disruption in supply, such as recent storms and hurricanes, we see large increases from our suppliers. There are many times we are put on a daily allocation, causing much volatility in the market.

Q: How difficult is it turning a profit in your industry?

A: I have seen good years and bad years. Without our very good and loyal customers, it would be very difficult. At Amerimart, it's one stop and you're on the go! We offer a free popcorn with a fill up and Thirsty Thursdays, where 32-ounce fountain sodas are 50 cents.

Q: How high do you think gas prices will jump by the end of the year?

A: There are just too many variables to predict prices in this industry. I would be a very sought-after individual if I had that crystal ball.

Q: Do you think we could hit five bucks a gallon one day?

A: Unless a major event happens, I do not see five-buck gas anytime soon.

Q: Do you think we'll ever return to under 2 dollars a gallon?

A: We have been very close to those numbers in recent weeks.

Q: You just announced plans to rebuild your Kingshighway Amerimart. What are the plans for the future of your company?

A: I would like to see steady growth. We currently own and operate 11 Amerimart convenience stores, a transportation company and two Younghouse party stores with 30 million in sales per year . We are fortunate to have so many dedicated employees who help make this all possible. Without them our future plans would not be viable. We recently purchased and remodeled a convenience store in Advance, Mo. Our new store on Kingshighway will be bigger and brighter. It will have a drive-through window and healthier food and beverage choices.

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