Elected officials, residents oppose gas station proposed for former Johnny’s site

No residents speak in favor of proposed 24-hour Circle K

Johnny's Market, a south county institution that featured a variety of local produce and foods, closed its doors in 2012 after 68 years in business. A Circle K convenience store with gas pumps and a car wash is proposed for the site. (

Johnny’s Market, a south county institution that featured a variety of local produce and foods, closed its doors in 2012 after 68 years in business. A Circle K convenience store with gas pumps and a car wash is proposed for the site. (

By Gloria Lloyd

A host of local elected officials joined residents who went to Clayton Monday night to protest a plan to replace the old location of Johnny’s Market with a new gas station.

Sunset Hills Aldermen Dee Baebler of Ward 1, acting board President Scott Haggerty of Ward 2 and Pat Fribis of Ward 4 told the county Planning Commission that residents overwhelmingly are opposed to the proposed development at the former Johnny’s site at 11555 Gravois Road.

The three also said they oppose the plans for the site since they do not fit in with Sunset Hills’ own developments across the street from the site’s location at the corner of Gravois and Sappington roads.

Since the Johnny’s site is located across the street from Sunset Hills in unincorporated St. Louis County, the county Planning Commission and County Council govern any development there. The eight-member planning panel includes three members from south county, all from Oakville.

The panel could vote on the project as soon as its next executive committee meeting, April 6. A non-binding show of hands after the hearing showed that 10 people were in favor of the development, including representatives of the developer, and 23 people were against it.

No one from the public showed up to speak in favor of the Circle K project at the March 16 public hearing, but residents from the surrounding neighborhoods in both Concord and Sunset Hills came out along with the aldermen to protest the proposed 24-hour gas station and car wash.

The proposed amendment to C-8 commercial zoning would be good for the neighborhood and would not increase traffic, said Tim Barnes, a representative of developer Meland Properties.

“The C-8 classification would help facilitate the transformation of the location commonly known as Johnny’s Market into a vibrant and active member of the neighborhood and the overall community,” Barnes said. “Our goal is to revitalize the property and be a valued member of the community, and to be a good neighbor.”

Site plans for the project call for a 4,000-square-foot convenience store that would sell pre-packaged liquor with 10 gas pumps in front, a five-bay car wash in back that will be “designed to blend in with the surrounding area,” a privacy fence along the residential property line in the back of the development, vegetation islands, plantings and vegetation screening next to the roadways.

A retaining wall would help draw sound away from nearby houses, and the design for the convenience store would be a new one for Circle K franchises.

Overall, the store will be an attractive round-the-clock addition to the neighborhood and provide a “nice blend and nice flow and compatibility for the surrounding area,” Barnes told the planning panel.

Sappington-Concord Historical Society member Mary Rott Walther lives next door and submitted a petition from her neighbors against the rezoning. Walther’s family had once owned the property and store, before selling it to Johnny’s founders John and Adel Loeffelman in the 1940s, she said. The Loeffelmans’ daughter Debbie Loeffelman sold local produce and foods at the grocery store for many years, but closed the store in 2012 after 68 years of business.

Many residents objected to the development on the grounds that similar gas stations and car washes already abound in the neighborhood. Sunset Hills resident Clifford Underwood noted that within a third of a mile from the Johnny’s site are 24 gas pumps at three different gas stations, which all have convenience stores. Walgreens is across the street from Johnny’s, and three car washes are also nearby, including a manned car wash.

None of those businesses are open 24 hours, however, Underwood noted.

“The gentleman kept talking about wanting to be a good neighbor and I think that won’t make them a good neighbor,” he said.