Wake Forest Foodies: Campus Gas

Fill 'er Up: Campus Gas Has a New Mission

For decades, Wake Forest students have seen Campus Gas & Service on Polo Road across from the University as a place to fuel up cars. But now three Wake Forest alumni see it as a place to fill up bellies and build a community that bridges the campus and the historic neighborhood to the north.

“We thought this could be a kind of linchpin,” said John Clowney (BS ’05, MSA ’06). “We want to bring the community and the University together. We want to really maximize this real estate and restore it back to its former glory.”

Clowney, Will Volker (’05, MSA ’06), and Ben Ingold (’05) envision this new iteration of Campus Gas as a bottle store selling juices, sandwiches, and salads to go, and a neighborhood eatery with craft beers, ciders, and a robust menu of American classics with a twist.

The building where the new restaurant will open later this year is on the National Register of Historic Places, part of the Oak Crest neighborhood developed in the 1920s. Register documents note its dominant feature, a soaring winged canopy that shelters the gas pumps of the 1965 structure, built in the style of Phillips 66 gas stations named the Harlequin. To start their new business, Clowney, Ingold, and Volker went through a two-year rezoning process, meeting with neighbors and Winston-Salem officials to share their idea for their new restaurant.

“Our vision is for something timeless,” Ingold said. “From the logo to the sandwiches, to the milkshakes, beer, and overall experience. We are keeping the historical design of the building and preserving the character of the place. We want to be a good reflection not only of ourselves and our businesses, but also Wake Forest alumni.”

The trio met as freshmen assigned to the same floor of Bostwick Residence Hall. Friends throughout their undergraduate years, the three drifted apart slightly after graduation. “I was doing minor league baseball, then law school,” Ingold said. “John was doing business school, Wall Street, and his real estate job. Will started his own business doing energy efficient tax credit accounting. Once we were back in the same area, we reconnected through a mutual friend and found we all had an entrepreneurial spirit.”

Campus Gas is their latest venture, but not their first. The three began one of the first hard cider businesses in North Carolina, Bull City Ciderworks. The cidery has locations in Durham and Lexington, N.C., and sells its cider varieties on tap in pubs and restaurants, and in bottles in specialty shops and grocery stores.

“For me, the training that I had at the School of Business was invaluable. Learning the fundamentals and building blocks allowed me to find success after graduation,” Clowney said.

As the renovations continue, Ingold is preparing to be the chief operator at Campus Gas, but the teamwork involved is critical.

“It takes a team to pull everything off,” Ingold said. “They’re trusting me to do some of the heavy lifting, but you can’t do any of it without the financial models Will’s coming up with, and the real estate background John has. It takes a village, and we’re lucky to have this entrepreneurial partnership.”

“Your partnership and how that congeals is the key to success for replication, potential additional locations, or additional business,” Clowney said. “You can figure out financing, you can figure out an idea, but if you don’t have a strong partnership, then you’re not going to do well. It takes constant contact and communication. We take this opportunity seriously. We’re a reflection of Wake Forest, and now we are a part of this community. We have the responsibility to show up and do our best every day.”