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Astronomical Petrol and Goodbye Gary and James

Columnist: Bill Meagher
February, 2017 Issue

Bill Meagher
All articles by columnist

"...showing up with a deer on your bumper doesn't fly in Marin County. My form of eating organic doesn't jibe with theirs."—James Hetfield

If you stop into Country Club Shell on Nave Ave. in Novato, you will find the most expensive gasoline in Marin, possibly in California.

And Moe Beig wishes it wasn’t so.

Moe is the proprietor of the gas station that was selling petrol at $3.99 a gallon a few days before Santa made his rounds. And that was for the least expensive offering. Down the street, Safeway had it at $2.42.

It isn’t that Mr. Beig believes his product is so much better that the exorbitant price tag is justified. “If I was standing over there with you, I’d think the same thing,” he said on a cold December morning.   

I had stopped in to find out why Beig thought selling gas at $4 a gallon was a wise business decision and I got a surprising answer, one that shows how tough it can be for local merchants to compete against national companies.

Without a touch of bitterness, the good-natured Beig said that when the 16-pump station moved in down the street, his business fell of 60-65%. “You know they sell their gas cheaper than I can buy mine?”

He pointed out that most stations in Marin price their gas about 35 cents higher a gallon than Safeway and that the supermarket chain uses the gas as a hook, hoping that shoppers will also fill up on groceries.

So Beig found himself in a bad spot, and then it got worse. “When I went to sign a new lease, they said ‘your volume is way down, we aren’t making any money on what you sell,’ so they took my monthly payment from $12,000 to $25,000.”

While the station has two service bays, Beig explained that he has no choice but to price his gas at the sky-high price to cover his overhead. “It was either that or close down and lose my investment.”

He says that some people just need gas and don’t care what the price is, but a lot of folks simply buy $5 or $10 worth, when the Safeway is jammed.

RIP Gary Giacomini

Due to the realities of publishing,  this is the first chance I had to say goodbye to Gary Giacomini, the six-term county supervisor, longtime Golden Gate Bridge Director and land use lawyer who died in December.

The above description merely tells some of what Giacomini did, not who he was. He was a giant in Marin who stood up to developers when their vision was to develop property in the Marin Headlands to be known as Montecito. He and others quashed that as well as the notion that a freeway to Point Reyes was a good idea, along the way preserving West Marin for agriculture, holding onto the last best place.

He was also the driving force in stopping the San Francisco Foundation from busting the “only in Marin” condition on the Beryl Buck Trust, which paved the way for the Buck Center for Research on Aging in Novato, a controversial project that he also championed.

When the campus was finally approved after a long and bloody fight, Giacomini celebrated by having his picture taken while he piloted a tractor and displayed the one finger salute. That picture never made the papers.

Giacomini was also instrumental in forging an agreement that allowed George Lucas to build famed Skywalker Ranch, with Lucas giving up developmental rights and donating thousands of acres in exchange for placing the ranch in an area where industrial or commercial development was prohibited.

Known as a guy who could fashion a compromise, he was also a fierce adversary who could pound a table until it split.

Marin will not see his kind again.   

Your Marin Moment

It seems that one of Marin’s more well-known residents has found the county wanting.

James Hetfield, the lead vocalist for the band Metallica, has decamped for Vail, Col. Hetfield has called San Rafael home since the 1980’s, with a 2,000 acre spread out in Lucas Valley known as Rocking H Ranch.

In a podcast interview, Hetfield said that he no longer felt that Marin was holding him tight. “They talk about how diverse they are, and it’s fine if you are diverse like them. But showing up with a deer on your bumper doesn’t fly in Marin County. My form of eating organic doesn’t jibe with theirs.”

Hetfield is a member of the NRA and a hunter. He feels like Marin and the Bay Area is elitist, that if you didn’t feel the same way about things from a political or environmental point of view, you are looked down upon. “I think in Colorado everyone is much more natural, People aren’t playing some game, they’re not posturing.”

The band plans on keeping its San Rafael headquarters.

Bill Meagher is a contributing editor at NorthBay biz and an associate editor for The Deal, a Wall Street-based digital financial news outlet. His work also appears on He is happy that spring training opens this month, go Giants.



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