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Local BP stations hurting from public backlash over oil spill

Staff Photo: Erin Evans
 Tommy McDonald, owner of McDonald’s Groceries at the Pony Express, is interviewed by the Atlanta media Tuesday afternoon. McDonald has owned a store at the Pony Express, at the intersection of Ga. highways 11 and 142, for more than three years. Business is down about 5 percent. 

Staff Photo: Erin Evans Tommy McDonald, owner of McDonald’s Groceries at the Pony Express, is interviewed by the Atlanta media Tuesday afternoon. McDonald has owned a store at the Pony Express, at the intersection of Ga. highways 11 and 142, for more than three years. Business is down about 5 percent. 

NEWBORN — A local BP gas station is in the national and local media spotlight.

News teams from Fox5 and WSB-TV Channel 2 in Atlanta were at McDonald's Groceries at the Pony Express on Ga. Highway 11 on Tuesday to put a community face on corporate BP, a company that has faced criticism and boycotts since the Gulf oil spill began in April.

The media was there at the invitation of Jim Tudor, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores, who said he wants the public to understand that by boycotting BP, they're really boycotting small business owners.

"A lot of people see a store with a BP sign on it and think it's owned by BP. But BP doesn't own any stations in Georgia," Tudor said. "The only people you hurt when you get involved in these sort of things is the people that own the store."

Beth and Tommy McDonald have owned McDonald's Groceries for three years. Before that, they owned a station across the highway from their present location.

They say business is down about 5 percent since the oil spill during a time when it's usually soaring due to summertime travelers. Last week, a customer told them she would buy milk and other supplies there, but wouldn't buy gas.

But the McDonalds don't buy their gas directly from BP — they purchase it from an independently owned distributor. And what many consumers may not realize is that if they buy unbranded gas at, say, a grocery store station, they may be getting BP products anyway.

"The individual owners will be the ones who suffer from people boycotting," Beth McDonald said.

Customer David Davis of Newborn said he won't boycott because he doubts it will do any good toward helping the Gulf.

"If they wanted to do something about it, they would have fixed it by now," he said of the oil spill. "It wouldn't help. The government doesn't want to help; that's my opinion. It would just hurt the local people that own the stores."

The air date for the Fox News report has not been established, according to a producer. It could be as late as next week, as they were unable to film live on Tuesday due to unavailability of satellite trucks. The WSB-TV clip was expected to air Tuesday afternoon.