Both Belgium businesses to remain open, despite their shared ownership
Talwinder Singh Gill and his family have been happily operating the Mobil gas station and Royal Ave. Market on the west side of Royal Avenue in the Village of Belgium since 2000.
Throughout that time, motorists were also fueling up and buying groceries at How-Dea Mini Mart on the east side of the road.
In late October, Gill purchased the convenience store/gas station from the Arndt family. That station, which opened in 1995, is affiliated with BP.
Rather than closing one business to boost sales at the other, Gill plans to operate both.
Gill’s son, Sukhdev, whose nickname is “Freddie,” now manages both businesses. His mother, Anoop, is also there to help out.
When he is busy at one location, Sukhdev keeps an eye on the store across the street via closed-circuit cameras linked to his laptop.
Sukhdev said the acquisition of the mini-mart came in response to the expansion mode the family found itself in.
“For some time, we had been talking about opening a truck stop near the Mobil station,” he said.
At the same time, the Arndt family was looking to get out of the convenience store business. They continue to operate the nearby HoBo’s Korner Kitchen restaurant and How-Dea Service Center.
A deal was reached and Gill purchased the How-Dea Mini Mart. Plans for a competing truck stop were dropped.
“There was never really a competition between the two gas stations. We both tried to keep our prices fair and didn’t try to take away business,” Talwinder Gill said.
Now, which gas station a customer visits may depend on what other business they have to conduct.
Adjacent to the How-Dea Mini Mart is a McDonald’s restaurant.
The Say Cheese cheese store is adjacent to the Mobil station.
Ironically, the McDonald’s had been located next door to the Mobil station and relocated to the mini-mart — only to end up with Gill as a landlord again when he purchased the How-Dea property.
“That may have come as a surprise to them, but we are on good terms,” Gill said.
The dual gas station ownership only cements the Gill family’s commitment to the community.
Talwinder Gill grew up in the Punjab region of northern India, immigrating to the U.S. in 1979 at the age of 16.
He started his pursuit of the American Dream by operating a gas station in Milwaukee and living in Mequon.
Still, he longed for the country life.
“I come from the farming caste in India. It was always my dream to have a large place out in the country,” he said.
Today, he and his family live on a 40-acre farm on Highway B in the Town of Belgium.
“My wife doesn’t believe in hunting, but we attract a lot of wildlife to our property — especially turkeys and deer. It is very beautiful,” Talwinder Gill said.
Long-range plans for the mini-mart include expanding the selection of beverages and convenience items sought by commuting customers, and possibly adding a pizza business, Sukhdev said.
As for a business model, Talwinder Gill, who is a devout Sikh, said his approach never waivers.
“Each day, I give thanks to God and I work hard,” he said.
The Gill family also plans to be even more committed to supporting the community. They have already been financial contributors to the Northern Ozaukee School District, where Sukhdev and his sisters, Amanpreet and Harpreet, attended school.
Talwinder Gill said he has been warmly welcomed by Belgium officials since arriving on the local business scene.
He especially noted the efforts of former Village President Donald “Peanuts” Schommer that resulted in bringing the McDonald’s restaurant to the community, and the ongoing support of Village President Richard Howells, who stepped down from office earlier this month.
“We feel very much a part of this community. Everyone knows us,” Talwinder Gill said.
REGULAR CUSTOMERS AT the Royal Ave. Market in Belgium may do a double-take if they should stop in at the How-Dea Mini Mart across the street. Both businesses and gas stations are now owned by the Gill family. Standing behind the register at the newly acquired mini-mart are (from left) Sukhdev Gill, and his parents Anoop and Talwinder. Photos by Mark Jaeger