Shakopee station owner thrives by offering drivers more ethanol choices

Joel Hennen's Minnoco fueling and service station in Shakopee offers consumers real choice at the pump, including E15.

Joel Hennen’s Minnoco fueling and service station in Shakopee offers consumers real choice at the pump, including E15.

Written by Jonathan Eisenthal

The Hennen family has owned a service station in Shakopee since 1958, when Joel Hennen’s grandfather opened their first store. A crew of men in white uniforms and billed caps hopped out to the car the instant it pulled into the station, ready to ‘fill ‘er up.’

Joel still likes to help his customers fuel up, but now it gives him an opportunity to talk about the benefits of driving with ethanol fuel — benefits both for their car and their pocketbook.

Change has been the one constant in the fuel business over the past 60 years, and keeping up with the changes has kept Joel in the service station business. Four years ago he severed his ties with a major oil company, and became an independent station owner under the Minnoco brand. The change allowed him to offer E15, E30 and E85 — all fuels with higher blends of ethanol made from corn grown right here in Minnesota — from a single dispenser, known as a flex-fuel pump

Hennen believes that offering his customers the choices they want is what keeps him in business. In addition to these mid- and high-blends of ethanol, he offers regular, midgrade and premium unleaded fuels, non-oxy gasoline (zero ethanol), as well and on-road and off-road diesel blends — a total of nine fueling choices from his four dispensers.

Seeing an option that’s higher octane, yet 10 cents less per gallon than regular gasoline, E15 quickly became a very popular fuel, and it often represents more than 20 percent of the volume of fuel he sells despite having all those other choices.

“Four years ago, I was that guy who thought ethanol was bad, because of all the falsehoods you read,” Joel said. “But I started educating myself, and I became a true believer. All my experiences in the past three years confirm that ethanol is a high quality fuel that I have no qualm about recommending to my customers.”

He notes that as of the middle of this year, American drivers had logged 155 million miles on E15 with out a single reported problem. Likewise, in his own shop, he has not had a single service customer approach him with any mechanical problem caused by E15. Hennen believes that the Minnoco brand stores are uniquely placed to help the driving public learn the truth about E15 and ethanol fuels. Of the 22 current stores, mostly in the Twin Cities metro area, 11 locations are also service stations, with 15 more sites planned for the near future.

“I tell my customers to use E15 because it is a higher octane, cleaner burning fuel that will save them money at the pump,” says Hennen. “I’m their mechanic, so when I recommend E15, they know it’s a fuel they can trust.”

Pink Out E15 events
From Sept. 16 — Oct. 31, Minnoco will donate 2 cents of every gallon of Unleaded Plus/E15 sold to Hope Chest for Breast Cancer. To find a Minnoco location near you, go to www.minnoco.com.

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