VINTON — In a stunning announcement, it was learned Thursday that one of the locally-owned staples of life in Vinton was closing its doors after nearly three decades.
Owner John Ketchen announced Thursday morning that John’s Qwik Stop at 814 C Avenue was being sold to Casey’s and will close as JQS in early February of 2023. Ketchen, who has owned the business there for 27 years said that a combination of factors went into his decision.
“It was a tough choice,” Ketchen told Vinton Newspapers Thursday afternoon. “I’m not getting any younger and finding a buyer isn’t an opportunity that comes around very often. When the opportunity presented itself, I decided it was time for me to step away.”
On the site of what was 50 years ago Frank Warner’s Conoco station, John Anderson built the original convenience store in the late 1970s. Ketchen joined the business in 1995, eventually having stores in both Urbana and Riverside at the businesses’ height. And the recent expansion of the Vinton business, including the car wash, adding A&W, Godfather’s and Charley Biggs’ Chicken brought in customers from all over the area.
But new competition on US 218 corridor from Kwik Star, Dollar Fresh and Casey’s kind of drove down his business’s bottom line, especially on fuel.
“Some of them are selling fuel cheaper than I can buy it,” Ketchen said. “That really kept pressure on us and dug into our margins.”
In recent weeks, the Charley Biggs’ Chicken franchise has closed down. Ketchen said that A&W will close November 30, with Godfather’s shutting down the third week in February. Casey’s will officially take over in early February of next year. But, Ketchen said, no one will be losing their jobs.
“Casey’s has assured us that everyone is going to be able to keep their jobs,” he said. “That was the biggest thing I wanted; we have a lot of people who have been with us for a long time.”
So now after 27 years with JQS, 23 as a banker and, as the man himself put it, “four or five years doing other stuff,” John Ketchen is stepping away from the business world in Vinton. Over the years Ketchen has also been one of the community’s biggest boosters and benefactors as well.
“It was always a lot more fun to give away the money than it was to make it,” he said.
“We’re very proud to have served this community for so many years,” Ketchen added. “I hope we made Vinton a better place.”