Stars’ new owners make changes
By Karen Brainard
The new owners of Stars Petroleum Inc. in Ramona say they have revamped the business and are hoping residents will stop by and give the gas station a try.
They also want the word out that former owner James Kurtenbach has absolutely no involvement in the business.
“It has nothing to do with him anymore,” said Terri Kjonegaard, who owns the station with her husband, Tim.
The Kjonegaards took ownership of Stars gas station at 1910 Main St. on the west side of Ramona about a year ago.
That was after Kurtenbach was convicted of arson, conspiracy and insurance fraud for his role in the Oct. 31, 2008, fiery explosion that destroyed his vacant house on North Woodson Drive and killed employee James Nesheiwat. Nesheiwat died almost instantly from burns suffered in the explosion and Kurtenbach was sentenced to 15 years and eight months in prison.
Tim Kjonegaard said some people think Kurtenbach still owns the business.
”We’ve been boycotted,” he said. “We’ve worked hard for a year. We’ve tried to make this a nice safe place.
“One of the best things is our reputation and willingness to do the right thing,” he added.
Owning and operating a gas station is a new occupation for the Kjonegaards and one that fell into Terri’s lap after Kurtenbach’s conviction. As the ex-wife of Kurtenbach, she was a silent owner in the business but said she never worked with Kurtenbach at the gas station. She said she divorced Kurtenbach in December 2007 after a three-year separation and described the news of Kurtenbach’s role in the explosion as a horror story. She said she never knew anything that was going on until it happened.
Finding themselves with a gas station, the Kjonegaards said they decided to start anew and improve the business.
“It needs to be a clean, well-lit store,” said Tim.
Having heard stories of fights and unpleasant activities around the gas station in the past, Tim said he hired mature, responsible and knowledgeable people to ensure the business remains professional.
“My goal is to make it pleasant for the customers as well as the employees,” Tim said.
He encourages his employees to come up with new ideas for the business.
“They take pride in this place,” he added.
The couple stressed that they value their employees, customers and their reputation.
Over the past year, Kjonegaard said they met all obligations with any remaining issues from the previous owner and implemented such changes as installing retail store software and accounting procedures, updating the store and repairing the car wash.
“I’ve heard a lot of good things,” he said of the changes.
Tim said he’s been working with the county to meet all codes and requirements and said the county has been pleased with his improvements.
“They’ve been fair to me,” he commented about the county.
Owning a gas station had not been in the career path of Kjonegaard, a flight test engineer for Edwards Air Force base.
“As cool as it was, I needed to give that up to help Terri,” he said, adding that his new job is “very demanding, complex, challenging.” Stars is open 24 hours, seven days a week and may be contacted at 760-788-7800.
- Arson investigation leads to arrest of Stars gas station owner
- Arson suspected in house explosion
- Kurtenbach preliminary hearing set for March 12
- New charge filed against Kurtenbach
- Kurtenbach to return to court on June 29
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