Community

Service stations to rebuild after winter fires

Firefighters spray water on the burning building. Jim's Garage, owned by Jim Waite, and located along Valentine Hill Road, in Bellefonte, Pa., caught fire and burned January 20, 2015.
Firefighters spray water on the burning building. Jim's Garage, owned by Jim Waite, and located along Valentine Hill Road, in Bellefonte, Pa., caught fire and burned January 20, 2015. CDT file photo

Two business owners plan to rebuild service stations destroyed by fire earlier this year.

Penns Mobil owner Robert Khayat is in the planning and design phase to reconstruct his service station, which was engulfed by flames Feb. 3 at 705 S. Atherton St.

Jim’s Garage owner Jim Waite is in the same process for his garage, which burned Jan. 20 at 296 Valentine Rd.

The owners of their respective businesses said they were rebuilding for their families and their communities.

“It’s great news that we’re doing this, and we’re doing it more than anything for the community,” Khayat said. “We have had overwhelming support and so many people asking if we’ll come back, and we made a decision to service the community that has supported us for so long. It’s what’s right for me, my family, my employees and our community.”

Khayat, whose family has owned the service station for 43 years, said his two employees will come back to work for him. He needs to get approval from the borough to rebuild, but expects he will get the green light soon.

Days after the fire Waite, who has owned Jim’s Garage for 42 years, feared he wouldn’t be allowed to rebuild.

“I was so depressed right after, and, you know, who wouldn’t be when that happens?” Waite said. “I was so depressed that I didn’t want to watch TV or go outside. It took a toll on me, but I’ve got a better attitude now that we should rebuild really soon.”

Waite has regularly met with Spring Township officials to get approval to rebuild, which he anticipates in the next two to three weeks.

“We have to get the plans stamped, but the guy that has to give us the stamp is uncertain about our back walls,” he said. “I said, ‘let’s rip down the back walls then.’ I have a meeting Monday with a guy that pours walls, and the code guy will be there. I hope that puts the go-ahead on things. I’ll do whatever I have to to get my garage back.”

Khayat said it will take at least four months to rebuild Penns Mobil when construction begins, which has not been determined yet.

“It’ll be as quickly as we can,” he said. “Once we have the green light we won’t waste time to get back up and running.”

Waite said he hopes Jim’s Garage will be operating by July.

“I think mostly everyone has had a good response when I’ve told them I want to keep doing this,” he said. “You’ve got a few wise guys that ask why I wouldn’t just retire and forget about it, but that’s just not my cup of tea if I can keep giving affordable prices for a good service. I just love working on cars too much to leave it behind.”

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