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Palmetto residents bid farewell to Shell station

PALMETTO — In any other city, the yellow shell with the red trim would be just another corporate logo.

But in Palmetto, the Shell gas station by the Manatee River has been a popular gathering spot for locals and fishermen.

“Everybody refers to this as an institution,” said Wes Foust, manager of the Palmetto Shell at 301 Eighth Ave. W.

The station at the end of the Green Bridge by the Manatee River will close March 30 until a new buyer is found for the property.

Owned by Circle K Stores, the station is on the market for $900,000 as the dealer lease agreement with the current operators expires at the end of the first quarter.

Brent Lindsey, a property broker for Grubb & Ellis, said when a new buyer is found for the station it will reopen as a Shell station due to a 15-year fuel agreement that remains on the property.

The Palmetto Shell was established in 1972, but the property has housed a service station since 1928.

For years, the location has been a favorite among fishermen who purchased live bait and a few snacks or drinks from the station before heading out onto the Manatee River.

“This place has been here for eons,” said Foust, who has worked at the station for about 18 years, 10 as a manager.

Palmetto natives such as Johnny Durrance, 75, say they are sad to see the station close for now and hope it won’t be long until it reopens.

“I’m upset, I’m upset about it,” Durrance said. “I buy bait here; I buy Lotto here.

“I buy my drinks here, buy my snacks here. I’m going to have to run all over Manatee County looking for bait.”

Signs were posted on all the pumps and the convenience store windows at the Shell after Foust was notified Monday that the station would close.

Jake Human, who regularly fishes on the Manatee River, said the station’s presence by the river means “everything, as far as the fishing community’s concerned.”

“A lot of people launch their boats here, they buy bait here,” Human said.

Among its bait supply, the Shell station sells what it calls “magic shrimp” to fishermen.

“We’re the only ones who have magic shrimp,” said Marlene Kervin, one of seven employees at Shell.

On Wednesday morning, Kervin, a Palmetto native, still had a steady stream of customers shuffling in and out to buy shrimp, cigarettes, gas or snacks.

Kervin exchanged hugs with regulars, fishing tips with newcomers about what’s biting on the river, and took a few more coins for the “Happy Fish Fund,” which goes toward charities in Palmetto and Manatee County.

“The community needs this place,” Kervin said. “It’s a huge loss.”

Officer Jennifer Strassner of the Palmetto Police Department stood in the convenience store for a bit, making sure things were running smoothly as she often does on her shift.

“There’s no other bait shop in the area, not like this,” Strassner said. “This has been here forever.”