Owner of Flowers Exxon retiring

Published 11:29 am Monday, November 15, 2010

James Flowers shares photos of his grandsons while visiting with customers at Flowers Exxon Monday. The 74-year-old Drewryville man on Dec. 24 will retired from the store he has owned for 57 years.

COURTLAND—In five weeks, James Flowers will sell the last of his famous hot dogs and retire from the gas station-convenience store he’s owned for 57 years.

The 74-year-old all but promises that Flowers Exxon, also known as Courtland’s “gossip central,” will reopen. He has four parties interested in taking over the business at 23427 Meherrin Road, across from Southampton High School off Highway 58.

Flowers didn’t name any of the potential buyers because negotiations on the sale of the stock are continuing. All are local. Parker Oil Co. in Boykins owns the building.

“I will be out on Dec. 24 at 1 p.m.,” said Flowers, citing problems with circulation for his retirement. “My legs are beginning to play out on me.”

John Brown of Newsoms hated hearing the news about Flowers’ retirement.

“My kids love coming here for hot dogs,” said Brown, a trooper with the Virginia State Police. “Mr. Flowers takes time with the kids.”

Newsoms Fire Chief Larry Fowler has made stopping at the store “a habit” while driving to his job with Helena Chemical.

“This is an icon for the area,” Fowler said. “It’s where everybody catches up on the news. It’s like the old country store. Everybody knows everybody.”

And Courtland farmer Jim Williams has been stopping at the store since he was a kid.

“You get to see a lot of friends,” the 43-year-old said.

Flowers purchased the more than 100-year-old business in 1953 for his mother, the late Evie Flowers. At the time, he worked for a farm supply business, and the station was known as Carter’s.

Evie Flowers lived next-door to the store in a trailer and operated the business until she was 81. James Flowers took over 36 years ago.

It didn’t take long before he became famous for his slow-roasted hot dogs.

“That man became a millionaire two years after he came here — on hot dogs,” Fowler joked.

“He sells a good hot dog,” added J.C. Williams, who started making at Flowers Exxon part of his morning routine after retiring in 2006 from Southampton Technical Career Center

Flowers sells about 75 hot dogs a day. Before the four-lane highway was built and the store fronted the main road, 120 hot dogs were sold a day.

“I’ve got people from Franklin (who come here for hot dogs),” he said.

The decision to retire was tough, but it won’t keep him away.

“Every day, I get here at 3:45 a.m. and stay until 5:30 (p.m.),” Flowers said.

He opens at 4 a.m. to sell diesel fuel to truckers and catch the workers heading for the Newport News shipyard. Between 5:15 and 8 a.m. is when about 25 to 30 of his regular customers stop for coffee, breakfast sandwiches, gossip, and of course, hot dogs.

“You’d be surprised how many hot dogs you sell in the morning,” Flowers said.