SHALLOTTE -- Early predictions say gas prices could reach somewhere in the $4 mark by summertime. And it's not just the drivers rising prices are hurting. A local gas station owner says gas prices are making it hard to make a profit, much less keep business going. Chuck Ward has independently owned an Exxon gas station in Shallotte since 1999. He says a good portion of the $3 and change people are paying at the pump goes to things like pump maintenance, liability insurance and costly tanker loads. This makes it hard for him to make a profit on gasoline alone, especially when people are trying to drive less. He has to rely on people spending money inside the store, on things like chips and soda. But now even that's not happening all the time. Ward said, "When they spend all their money at the gas pump, which is by far the lowest profitable item that we have, and sometimes no profit that leaves them little or no money to come inside." In order to stay competitive where he is in Shallotte Ward is charging $3.27 a gallon at his store. North Carolina's state average is around $3.20 cents a gallon. According to AAA the national average is about $3.40 a gallon, up 40 cents just in the past month alone.
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