Gas station proposed for Johnny’s site opposed by elected officials, residents

Developer says Circle K store wants ‘to be a good neighbor’

Johnny's Market (

Johnny’s Market (

By Gloria Lloyd

Sunset Hills aldermen and neighbors of the former Johnny’s Market headed to Clayton last week to let county officials know they do not want to see a gas station replace the former south county institution.

Developer Meland Properties is proposing a 4,000-square-foot Circle K convenience store and 10-pump gas station at the 2.25-acre site at 11555 Gravois Road, along with a five-bay car wash in the back. As proposed, both would be open 24 hours.

Developer Tim Barnes said Meland wants to be a good neighbor, and concessions on that front include using a new, more attractive design for the Circle K store, a car wash “designed to blend in with the surrounding area,” a privacy fence along the residential property line in the back of the development, vegetation islands and vegetation screening next to the roadways.

A retaining wall would draw sound away from nearby houses.

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 March 16 that residents overwhelmingly are opposed to the proposed development at the former Johnny’s site.

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, which falls under county zoning since it is in unincorporated St. Louis County. For example, Sunset Hills mandates that the Conoco gas station across the street from Johnny’s must close at 10 p.m.

County Council Chairman Pat Dolan, who represents residents living near the Johnny’s site, attended the hearing. No one from the public spoke in favor of the gas station. No traffic study has been conducted, but the gas station and car wash would not increase traffic and would transform the location 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.”

Sappington-Concord Historical Society member Mary Rott Walther lives next door and submitted a petition from her neighbors against the rezoning. Her family once owned the store, 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.

Comparing the Circle K to the QuikTrip that Sansone proposed to build in Sunset Hills last year but dropped due to opposition from residents, Fribis said the families who live nearby need to be respected.

“I was very opposed to that (QuikTrip) in my ward,” she said. “We need to respect the residential areas and not try to put commercial on every corner. We need to respect the people and their residences and families that live there.”

Although the three aldermen in attendance — who are all up for re-election April 7 — said they have been inundated with emails against the Circle K, Sunset Hills Mayor Mark Furrer was not at the hearing and told the Call he did not receive much response from residents either for or against the Circle K. Last year, Furrer defeated former Mayor Bill Nolan as a write-in candidate with a platform against the QuikTrip.

“It’s sad that it’s going to be a gas station, but that’s change I guess,” Furrer told the Call, noting his family shopped at Johnny’s from 1962 until it closed. “The market kind of dictates what goes where … If Johnny’s were doing good business, they wouldn’t have had to close. I hate to see them go away, but I guess that’s progress.”