Our story begins all the way back to 1935. It was in this year that Clyde and Lila Foeste decided to purchase a two story brick home located at 334 Morgan Oak Street in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and start their business, Southern Oil Company.
To open their business they placed two gas pumps out in front of the house. To maximize the limited space, the Foestes converted their living room into a store, offering oil, fluid, and other automotive products. With a lot of hard work and determination, the business took off.
After about eight years of operating the gas business out of their home, Clyde and Lila made a business decision to purchase the ground across the railroad tracks at 400 Morgan Oak. It was at this location that their vision came to reality – a gasoline station, garage, and restaurant.
The building had many unique architectural features. This included neon tubing, the placement of glass blocks around the entry, and distinctive lighting throughout the interior and outside property. To advertise their showplace, a bright neon sign was placed by the street; flashing the two words EAT…GAS…at alternate times in the formation of a cross. In addition, the new store was open 24 hours a day, seven days a week—the first of its kind to the region.
The building caught the attention of several people and was considered the finest from St. Louis to Memphis, TN. National attention was brought to the location by the many famous people who frequented the store and restaurant, including Tennessee Ernie Tubbs, Minnesota Fats, Johnny Cash, Clyde McCoy, and Elvis Presley.
The Foestes worked many long hours at the service station to make their investment succeed. Indeed it did! Shortly thereafter, they decided to expand their services and started delivering petroleum to farms in Southern Illinois and Southeast Missouri, using a tank wagon.
After experiencing the success of this location, the Foestes decided to expand. They bought gas station with a café in Benton, Missouri. However, the location did not produce the results of the Morgan Oak location and after about six years they decided to sell the Benton location.
It was business as usual for many years until 1960; when Clyde and Lila’s only child, Gaye, and her husband Robert Blank, took over the daily operations. The Blanks saw opportunity in bulk transport deliveries and expanded the business to handle transport deliveries to the Missouri and Illinois region. Robert and Gaye formed Bi-State Southern Oil Company in 1972 and continued to operate the service station at 400 Morgan Oak. They also transported loads to the Bi-State region (and later Kentucky), expanding from one tank wagon to two and adding two over-the-road transports.
The Blanks saw the increasing demand for a self-service station, and in 1980 decided to tear down the old structure at 400 Morgan Oak and replace it with a new modern self-service convenience store – the first of its kind to the area. The new location featured four self-service gasoline pumps and a separate diesel fuel island for trucks. The Blanks decided at this time to carry branded fuel by Sun Oil Company (SUNOCO). In addition to a canopy that covered the entire driveway, the Blanks also added a drive up window for purchases. Both of these features were firsts to the area. After the new structure was completed, 400 Morgan Oak was again mentioned as the finest from St. Louis to Memphis. In fact, many today believe that no other site in Missouri, and few in the nation, has pumped the amount of gasoline that the address of 400 Morgan Oak has, by Bi-State Southern Oil Company.
Seeing the area of Cape Girardeau expanding, the Blanks built their second location on North Kingshighway in Cape Girardeau, in 1988. This stored features a convenience store with, gasoline, diesel, and a full service food offering; as well as housing the corporate offices of Bi-State Oil Company today in the rear of the building.
Having over forty years of service to the business, the Blanks decided to sell the business to their son, Scott in 2002, becoming the only third generation oil company owner in the Midwest. Scott had been working in the business since his graduation from Southeast Missouri State University in the fall of 1997. Since the acquisition, the business has seen more changes, particularly to the office and accounting departments within the company. Bi-State Oil Company was also recognized for their unique marketing efforts receiving two ADDYs and two advertising awards by the Tri-State Advertising and Marketing Professionals.
In the fall of 2004, Bi-State Oil Company opened its third location at 612 South Sprigg Street in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Going back to his roots, Scott has decided to run the convenience store under the name of Southern Convenience Stores, just as his grandfather did upon starting the business many years ago. A plaque dedicating the building to his parents, Robert and Gaye Blank, can be seen just outside the entrance to the store.
The Southern Convenience store at South Sprigg has had much recognition following its completion, including the “Best In Class” award from the National Wood Frame Builder’s Association as the “Building of the Year”. The new store features many unusual features, including a stone wall and entry way, stained flooring, cedar beams, mountain scene murals, blue sky lights, stone counter tops, and a hanging antique wooden canoe.
Bi-State Oil Company continues to be recognized as top of its class by many of the convenience store and gasoline trade magazines, including features in PetroMart and Convenience Store Decisions. On occasion, Scott Blank has been commissioned to write articles for these publications.
Bi-State Oil Company is continuing to look for opportunities and growth markets to expand to with its Southern Convenience Stores brand. However, the focus Bi-State Oil Company has always been and always will be about taking care of customers.
From a humble beginning some seventy years ago with a two story house, to a nationally-recognized and growing convenience store business, Bi-State Oil Company is committed to offering fast and friendly service in a safe and clean environment. Stop in and find out why for three generations Bi-State Oil Company has said… “We Keep You Moving.”