Reopened: Fuel Co. refueled by Desai


Sam Desai, the operator of the venerable Seven Day Jr. store and the winning bidder at the July auction of the gas station/convenience store at the corner of Avon and East Market Streets, reopened Fuel Co. on February 20.

Fuel Co. was the brainchild of vintner Patricia Kluge as an upscale source of energy for body and vehicle. But after opening in 2003, the place went out of business just four years later and was eventually gutted as Kluge's finances unraveled.

That gave Desai an opportunity to start anew. He's chosen Sunoco petroleum, Ben & Jerry's ice cream, and local craft beers such as Starr Hill and Blue Mountain to complement such staples as Lay's potato chips and Budweiser. He has installed a couple of leather sofas in a special wi-fi and wood-floor reading room; and before long, he hopes to unveil an espresso bar and sandwich shop providing more fuel for the public.

"I want a really clean store," says Desai, giving a reporter an impromptu tour on a snowy Monday morning, when a smoothie bar just inside a drive-up window indicates– along with the distinctive architect-designed canopy outside– that this is no ordinary gas station.

Read more on: fuel co


Where are they going to park?

Way to go Sam! This is so exciting. Glad to see revitalization happening instead of more local businesses failing. Best of luck in this new venture.

Gas prices are high everywhere, and getting worse.

But his prices are always more than other outlets closeby.

And you're welcome to find your cheaper gas. The same people that pay more to live downtown, eat downtown, and shop downtown will have no problem paying a few cents more for gas. Hope he does well there.

A few cents? Last time I thought about stopping there, he was 14 cents higher per gallon than Joy Food a few blocks away. When I am filling a 44 gallon vehicle it adds up fast. Maybe he will give me a discount since I buy 4 times more gas than most people each time I stop?


Gasser, you don't have to buy gas there.

Downtown Brown, the only problem is all the folks who don;t want to pay the extra for the convenience dumping their problems on any close neighborhood that doesn't have restricted parking. They want the convenience, not the cost. The place has no parking and it was a problem before. Like the idea though.


A while back, I had an office downtown. Parking was always a problem. The City of Charlottesville has never been creative with solutions to the parking problem. The City has failed to offer meaningful pricing for spaces that sit empty in the Market Street and Water Street garages all day long. I know that the Water Street garage belongs to private investors. I believe that the Market Street garage belongs to the city. I also have an office in Washington, DC where I either pay a reduced rate of $10.00 a day if I arrive before 9AM or I pay hourly and that runs around $20.00 a day. Monthly deals are better and cut the price to about $7.00 a day. And since I have a condo and a parking space in Clarendon, I have the option of taking the Metro and paying $3.00 a day. The City needs to take a hard look at making parking price sensitive and affordable to all.There are many entry level workers in the Downtown area and with entry level pay may be stretching to work here. Charlottesville isn't an inexpensive place to live.

When i had my office downtown I never moved my car as our parking was stacked and often required several colleagues to move if I wanted to get my car out. I walked to FUEL and enjoyed the exercise. I also walked to the Omni and any place else I went on the Downtown Mall.

Gas prices are going up and are driven by location. The FUEL property cost a few bucks to acquire. It may be simple econmics that drive the prices of gas. In the Kluge era, the food wasn't cheap, but it was high qulaity, the service was great and the staff among the most friendly in town. Bashing Ms. Kluge and Mr. Moses seems a bit harsh. I give them credit for trying to make the concept work. Not much in life is for certain, there but for fortune.........

@UTHAODT - I won't argue the city's lack of creative solutions on parking, but I also think they are fighting a mentality that says "I wanna own my SUV, live with low taxes in the county, get free parking downtown, and park right next to where I want to go." Sorry, but that's unrealistic, and its unfair to place the burden on the locals who pay the higher property taxes so they can do what you do - either walk, or ride public transit. There are three parking garages right around the mall. There is free parking under the Belmont Bridge. There is parking available, and there are monthly passes.

No doubt Charlottesville is an expensive area to live, but I don't see how that is made better by making elderly ladies walk a block to unload their groceries. One way to encourage things for commuters is to start having more specified parking for scooters and motorcycles. My father commuted for years on one downtown and loved it.

I thought Fuel was an interesting idea and the food was very good. I thought it failed basically because I had heard Mrs Kluge was not easy to work for, and ran off the good people. But I don't really know.

I think the price of the food had quite a bit to do with Fuel failing under the Kluge ownership. The prior owner at that location had set a much lower price point for food which was good, but simple. I particularly loved the soups. The sandwiches were good as well. Again, simple. No imported cheeses or meats. Simplicity of the sandwiches also led to quick turnaround time between ordering and walking out the door. You also scooped your own container of soup, to go. The place used to be packed back then, largely by not terribly well-paid LexisNexis employees who could walk across the street without the need to park. Once the prices went up under Kluge, it just wasn't a viable daily option for those folks, who luckily found Blue Ridge Market to be a good replacement on the mall. If the prices were competitive with Blue Ridge, I'd imagine the new owners could lure back a large number of those employees for at least some of the lunches they choose to eat out. The LexisNexis building houses hundreds of employees. A wise new owner would take their proximity and ability to pay into account.

I have to agree, where do you park?

As Beth noted, the last owner before Kluge did a pretty brisk business with reasonable prices. I don't know why that business was sold, but there is plenty of parking for a take out place. Bellair Market has a much more difficult parking and traffic situation and does a lot of business.

If the new Fuel good as what was there before Kluge, I'll happily go back to stopping there every day for breakfast and I agree that SNL and Lexus make for a large group of people to make lunch dollars from. The new owners definitely ought to offer a decent beer selection and good quick sandwiches to go.

The sandwiches at Fuel were quite good. Expensive, but delicious. They did not go out of business because the food wasn't excellent, or there was no parking, they went under because Kluge spent too much money fixing up the place originally, treated the staff awfully, and she eventually pissed away all her disposable cash making crummy wine.

Yes, Kluge wine was not good.

I remember when Patricia Kluge created Fuel Co. It was a delight to see the renovation of the old gas station into a simple and elegant building. I still think the canopy is one of the most beautiful ones I've ever seen at a gas station. I applaud Ms. Kluge for understanding the importance of good design and for hiring one of C'ville's great architects, Madison Spencer, to design her building. This canopy could have been a boring pre-fab type -- but instead Charlottesville got a unique and attractive piece of architecture.
I used to go to Fuel Co. occasionally and found the products and service to be very good. However, it was always strange to have morning coffee or eat lunch next to gas pumps. I think that if Ms. Kluge had chosen one or the other, she might have succeeded. The building next to the gas pumps could have had uses that complemented the gas service -- like auto repair or fast food for the drive-thru/drive-by customers in a hurry. Or the property could have been used solely for food and beverage for the leisure customer/the local-pedestrian/urban customer -- not the drive-by ones.
For this urban market, the corner of Avon and Market Streets -- where Fuel Co was located -- needs to be improved to attract more pedestrians. The sidewalks need to be widened, on-street parking needs to be added, new shade trees planted and through-traffic slowed down. Think Market Street or Water Street -- where retailers like Market Street Wine Shop, the Second Yard, and Mono Loco thrive. The street/sidewalk design complements the land uses. Cars can still get through, but these are clearly pedestrian oriented streets that attract an urban type of retailer.
Charlottesville should seriously start thinking about transforming its downtown suburban-designed streets to urban-designed ones. We could start with transforming Ridge/McIntire, Preston, and Avon. Their current designs do nothing to complement their near by historic neighborhoods and only encourage high speed through traffic. New street designs would then attract more local retailers like the Fuel Co. coffee shop and restaurant.
The City's new Zoning Ordinance encourages this, so let's get started.

Thank you Rachel for you input, I know you have some experience in this area. I think what you are talking about has been and continues to be my complaint about 'development' in the downtown or inner parts of the city. There are lots of lovely old buildings that can add the the flavour of the location, but key is setting up something that is really more designed to meet the needs of urban living, and in town customers. Building stores that require constant non local customers that must commute in and park is not going to work, and certainly not going to be sustainable. Its also rdiculous that to get necessary staples that city residents have to add to the commute and traffic congestion and constantly commute somewhere else to make purchases.

As I said earlier I liked the Fuel concept and thought the food was good.