The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 29, 2013

Kansas convenience stores close abruptly, including Gorilla X-press

By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
astefanoni@joplinglobe.com

PITTSBURG, Kan. — A Pittsburg convenience store, along with seven others in Southeast Kansas, has closed for the second time in three months.

This time the closing is not related to state enforcement.

In November, eight stores — most of which operate under the name Jump Start Markets — were seized by the Kansas Department of Revenue for failure to pay $515,911.52 in collected sales taxes. Those stores included Pittsburg’s Gorilla X-press, 2401 S. Rouse Ave.

On Tuesday, the doors to Gorilla X-Press were locked and a “Closed” sign was on the door.

Also, phones either were disconnected or were not in service at the Jump Start convenience stores in Altamont and Neodesha. A person who answered the phone at the Chetopa store declined to be identified but said the store closed last Friday and was “vacant.” Telephone calls to the two stores in Coffeyville were not answered during business hours and phones to both stores in Independence had been disconnected on Tuesday.

Jeannine Koranda, public information officer for the Kansas State Department of Revenue, said Tuesday that the the recent closures are not the result of any seizure or enforcement action by the department.

The stores are owned by TAS Group, LLC, which is owned by Adam McCullen of Schenectady, N.Y., and Thomas L. Cook of Ozark, Mo.

Bonnie Jordan, manager of the Neodesha store, who was reached at her home Tuesday, said she was told by Cook to leave at 2:30 p.m. Thursday. She also said vendors came to the store and removed inventory from the shelves.

“We knew something was going down, we just didn’t know how bad it was,” said Jordan, who had worked at that location for 16 years.

According to Jordan, she and other employees of that store, including five clerks, are still owed three weeks back pay.

“He collected cash from all the stores that were still open last Monday. He claimed it was going to be for payroll. But Friday was payday and he still owes us,” she said. “How are we supposed to pay our bills?”

Jordan said messages she left on Cook’s cell phone were not returned. Cook also did not return calls to the Globe Tuesday or in November.

In November, Koranda said the state seizure by the department was a “last resort” to collect the taxes owed to the state.