News & Opinion | September 15, 2016 9:00 am

The Mystery Behind That Members-Only Luxury Gas Station Chain

Did USA Today and Vice fall prey to a hoax?

We’re happy to report that even in the age of Cheetos Chicken Fries and the distinct possibility of a President Trump, if something sounds too crazy to be true, sometimes it actually might be.

Have you heard about the new chain of luxury gas stations? You may have, if you read popular outlets like VICE, USA Today and The Daily Mail. And no wonder the media covered the story, given the impressive list of amenities planned for the high-end Greenwich, Connecticut, fill-up station, which include valet service, fine dining options and a waterpark. 

Slated to open next year, the petrol palaces aim to serve a members-only clientele, and the entry requirements are steep: “A household net worth of $50 million or more,” as USA Today reported. 

Many of the stories about the “GP Clubs” relied on a report that ran on the website of the newspaper Greenwich Time, which likely relied on info gleaned from this press release. 

It’s a doozy: 

“The four level buildings will include a steakhouse restaurant, business center, video-conferencing center, meeting rooms, suites for sleeping and resting, a medical clinic, a boutique selling select designer merchandise and a hair salon. Ultra affluent households with a net worth exceeding $50 million will be the clientele for these units. The company plans to build 250 GP Club units globally over the next 36 months with a modest roll-out.”

Modest roll-out. Got it.

The press-release was issued by an entity called The Guess Corporation, not to be confused with the famed denim maker, which is known as Guess?, Inc.

It’s an ambitious plan for a relative newcomer to the retail fuel industry, or even the luxury waterpark industry. But according to its very own website, The Guess Corporation is one of the most dynamic and far-reaching conglomerates in the world, with interests under its umbrella ranging from diamond-dealing and  lumber distribution to construction, fast-casual dining, mega-yacht sales, healthcare and “exclusive piano-marketing,” whatever that is.

It’s all the more impressive considering the apparent youth of the company’s executive management team. 

It may seem amazing that this corporate behemoth has flown under the radar for so long, especially given the flurry of press releases it has issued in recent months. But the company is fairly secretive. For instance, it registered with the North Carolina secretary of state using the address of a UPS store in a Winston-Salem strip mall. The company is similary bashful when it comes to social media, with just 23 followers on Facebook and Twittter combined.  

Curious to learn more about this innovative startup, we reached out with a few financial questions. Via email, a spokesperson put the cost to construct a GP Club at approximately $10 million and insisted the company has the financing in place to finish all 250 of the costly builds. Asked where all that investment money was coming from, they replied that they were “not at liberty to disclose sites of interest or partners at this time.”

They added: “We have been able to build quietly over the years and will continue to build by disclosing information at the appropriate time to maintain competitive advantages.”

As remarkable as all that sounds, it’s not even the only project Guess Corp. has taken on. They’re also planning an “upscale couples-only restaurant chain” (The Guess Bread Company),  a string of 40 “global private members only department stores” (The Guess Private Merchant Company), and a National Security Park to be constructed in Winston-Salem, consisting of a Bioterrorism Research Center, Cybersecurity Research Center, Sustainability Research Center, Energy Research Center and Infectious Disease Research Center, which the company says will break ground next month, after the site is announced.

Not a moment too soon, considering the many plagues facing the human race.

Eager to learn more, we reached to the architectural firm, Florida-based SCOTT+CORMIA, that produced the conceptual rendering of the GP Club. 

The firm’s director of business development, Kristine Hernandez, described Guess Corp.’s stated plan as “clearly unrealistic” and explained that the drawings for the stations are merely renderings and that much more detailed plans would have to be created before construction was even a remote possibility. She also said that none of the other SCOTT+CORMIA renderings Guess has included in its press releases have reached the construction stage yet. 

“They do love releasing their releases,” Hernandez observed of the Guess Corporation. “As long as they keep paying our invoices, we’ll keep working with them and guiding them through the process.”

She added, “I guess the thing about the Guess Corporation is, they keep everyone guessing.”