Making it in New Britain – City Gas

By at January 19, 2017 | 2:00 pm | Print

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South Main Street’s City Gas is known for low prices on gasoline, but it also serves up something rare – manners. The combination has made the American dream a winning success for its owner.

Born in Punjab, India, Kanwalpreet Singh came to America in 1996.

“America is still seen by the rest of the world as the land of opportunity. It has a very good reputation despite some claims of others,” he said.

Four years after arriving, a family friend sold the business and Singh moved to New Britain to take over City Gas.

But the hardest year of his life lay just before him.

Singh and his family are devout Sikhs, a monotheistic religion that has several parallels to Christianity in its teachings about helping others in need. Sikhs are very different from radical Islamists, and historically have been their fierce enemies. But being Sikh also meant having a turban and beard.

In 2001, after the 9-11 attacks, “many people did not know the differences in cultures. They saw hair and a turban and we all looked the same.”

Singh remembers the painful taunts, “Go back to your own country!”

Singh answers, “THIS is my country now, my kids were born here.” “But now people are learning more (about cultural differences) because the schools are helping them learn now.”

For a number of years Singh tried running City Gas as a Valero station, but found that he could have lower prices and better profits as an independent. The store provides 70 percent of the income and the gas pumps average the remaining 30 percent. This success, in turn, has allowed him to do more for the community.

“We are always willing to help. We have so many people, they come in sometime. They have no money, no food. They have no gas to go to work. I always help them out. And, they always come back to pay,” he said. “Very few, maybe 1 percent, think ‘they are making enough’ and will just pass by. But that does not discourage me.”

City Gas also is known for helping to sponsor many youth activities. Singh smiled broadly as he recalled, “…like the teams with the T-shirts. I sent them a check and I got a team T-shirt back with my name on it!”

It’s a matter of attitude.

“They way they want to be treated, they should treat the other person like that. If they want to be treated nicely, they should treat the other person nicely,” he said. “That is a teaching of our religion.”

Asked what he would like to make known to City Journal readers, Singh replied, “Watch your kids. Because I am near the school I see what they tell you and it (often) goes the opposite way. So watch them. That’s a responsibility because it’s the parents who get the kids, the kids do not get the parents.”

“The goal of being a parent is to teach kids a nicer way, and if we are not doing that responsibility, then we are not doing our job and going against His willing,” he added.

Future plans for City Gas include a major renovation in the next two years including new tanks, pumps, canopy, coolers, interior plan and landscaping.

The Cost of Gas

City Gas has quite a history of having the lowest gasoline prices in the city. But even their prices can change quickly. So, we asked about how the costs are set.

Most gasoline for this region comes into port through New Haven where shipments are bought by large brokers. These brokers then set the base price per gallon.

Added to this price is the cost of transportation. Depending on which “zone” you are in, an additional fee is added to transport fuel from New Haven to your location.

When an order is made, the cost is then fixed, and usually delivered the next morning.

Late the night before the delivery is when City Gas will adjust its pump prices to reflect the cost of the delivery coming in the morning. City Gas averages three deliveries of 8,000 gallons per week.

The profits for City Gas itself can vary widely from 2 to 9 cents per gallon, but average only 5 or 6 cents. They intentionally vary their profit margin to stay at or near the lowest cost to consumers in the area.

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