LATHROP – Elbert Winbush has made the Circle K at the corner of Louise Avenue and Cambridge Drive a regular and routine part of his life.
As a neighboring homeowner living just down the street from the gas station and convenience store, he would stop whenever he needed a cup of coffee – always relishing the fact that he could get what he wanted regardless of whether it was 2 p.m. or 2 a.m.
But now that the store is closing its doors after serving its neighborhood customers, and Lathrop residents in general, for nearly four decades – officially ceasing business operations on Thursday, Dec. 1, which means Winbush will have to have to find a new place to get his morning cup of joe.
“I’ve been coming here for almost 10 years, and it started off because it was convenient – I live right down the street,” Winbush said. “But then you get the chance to know the people, and they are very, very nice. It starts to become like an extended family where you know everybody here.”
On Tuesday afternoon, Winbush sat in his car and waited for his daughter Elisa to make her purchase. When one of the managers walked out of the store after her shift, he quickly jumped out and the two struck up a friendly yet bittersweet conversation – knowing that they would end soon.
“I’m really going to miss it. It’s really a neighborhood spot, and we’d walk down here to get coffee even if it was in the middle of the night,” he said. “How many other places do you get to know the manager by name? It’s kind of like Cheers,” referring to the long-running popular television show.
Not all customers, however, are taking the news in stride.
Property owner AJ Khinda said that he has been getting phone calls from angry customers that are threatening to protest out in front of his other local business – noting that there is misinformation about what exactly transpired when he sat down to negotiate a new lease on the property after the 35-year contract that was previously held by the corporate site expired.
A phone call to Circle K’s regional headquarters in Corona in Southern California was not immediately returned.
Regardless of the politics involved, Dennis Paiva – who bought a house in Lathrop in 1994 and has been frequenting the location ever since – doesn’t want to see the site go.
“It’s going to be an inconvenience for us, because now we’re going to have to drive all the way up the street,” Paiva said. “And it’s not going to be the same. It’s not going to be a neighborhood store.”
Eight employees currently handle the work required to operate the 24-hour store, and four will be working today – the last day that the store is scheduled to be open. It’s unclear whether their positions will be terminated or if they’ll be relocated to another store.
Most of the stock on the shelves that belongs to vendors was already gone by Tuesday.
“It’s a shame that these people are going to be losing their jobs – especially right now,” Winbush said. “Not only is it the economy, but it’s the holidays. That’s no way to start the Christmas season.”