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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 24, 2001

Leeward gas war pushes price to $1.61

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Leeward Writer

Gasoline prices in the lower $1.60 range may not qualify as gas war material on the Mainland, but along a 3-mile stretch between Kapolei and Wai'anae, those prices rate as fighting words in the state with the nation's most expensive gasoline.

The cheapest gas on O'ahu may be in Nanakuli, where a gallon of regular unleaded yesterday cost $1.61.

Cory Lum • The Honolulu Advertiser

For weeks, a half-dozen outlets along Farrington Highway have been matching one another price cut for price cut, selling what qualifies as cheap gas on O'ahu, where the average price of unleaded gas was about $1.86 a gallon early this month.

"Business is booming," said Erlinda Spragling, manager of the Fastop convenience store at 87-2130 Farrington Highway, where a gallon of self-serve regular unleaded Freedom gas was selling yesterday for $1.61. "It's nonstop."

Even as Spragling spoke, a minor traffic snarl was developing out front as motorists jockeyed for position at the pumps. Only six miles away, in Kapolei, gas was selling for 19 cents per gallon more. To the west, in Wai'anae, the per-gallon price for regular unleaded was $1.75 at most locations.

That $1.75 price was common all along the Leeward Coast six weeks ago, where gas traditionally sells for a few cents less than elsewhere on O'ahu. Then, in mid-October, prices began to drop in Nanakuli and Ma'ili.

In the weeks since, Spragling said, gas at her location has gone from $1.75, to $1.65, to $1.63 and, finally, the past few days, to $1.61. She wouldn't speculate about what price might be next.

"But we watch our competition," she said.

Many pleased Leeward residents say the drop in prices in Nanakuli began at Freedom pumps.

But Spragling said her place followed the Aloha gas prices at the 7-Eleven convenience store at the corner of Farrington and Auyong Homestead Road.

According to 7-Eleven employee Sharlene Chaves, the store closed Oct. 3 for remodeling. After it reopened on the 19th, regular unleaded gas dropped to $1.71. From there it fell incrementally over the next few weeks.

"We're usually lower than anybody else around here," said 7-Eleven assistant manager Fred Nichols. "If we come down a penny, the others follow us." But, he said, "I haven't seen it come down like this before."

Nichols said people from other parts of the island invariably comment about the gas prices when they come through the door. One regular customer who is ecstatic about the gas deals is Luis Fernandez, vice president of an area construction company.

"We bring our company trucks here, and I bring my personal cars here," he said. "I just hope this lasts."

Everyone likes to save money on gas, said Fernandez, though sometimes he buys at Tesoro up the road.

"They're $1.63 a gallon there," he said. "Which is 2 cents more than it is here. But if you use the Tesoro card, it's 3 cents less, or $1.60.

"And," he added with a grin, "we have the card."

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8038.