Thursday, 23 March 2017 16:24

Realizing the American Dream

 

MALTA — Zulfiqar Zulfi has come a long way since riding a bike to work at a Schenectady County gas station.

The friendly immigrant from Pakistan now owns two stations of his own and is planning an expensive renovation to the one located on Route 9 in Malta.

“I’m a true American dream guy,” Zulfi says. “This is a great country. You get what you work for.”

The father of four settled in Clifton Park in 1993. Four years earlier, he had arrived in California from Pakistan, he says, “with $200 in my pocket.” A friend of his living in Albany at the time then invited Zulfi to the Capital Region.

Soon, he had begun biking to work at a gas station in Rotterdam and saving up his money. Through the years Zulfi did enough of that to spend $1.8 million on a vacant property on Route 29A in Gloversville, where he opened his first official ZZ Mart in 2015.

The former Getty gas station in Malta, though, is where Zulfi’s efforts will be focused for the remainder of this year. He is planning a $2.5 million renovation there to create his second ZZ Mart.

“This is like my oxygen,” he said of the Malta business, which is located a short distance south of the Malta Ambulance building and a New York State Police barracks. “I feel like it’s my birthplace.”

On March 6, Zulfi gave a presentation regarding his proposed project to the Malta Town Board. He was joined by James Ether, general manager of RM Dalrymple Company in Saratoga Springs, which specializes in the construction of gasoline service pumps and canopies.

Town officials in Malta are considering an amendment to zoning rules so that Zulfi can renovate as needed. His current gas station has only 300 square feet of space, so a new building with 5,000 square feet—as planned—will be more than welcome.

Ether told the board that a “raze and rebuild” is necessary at the Route 9 station as a means to create more efficient traffic flow near the gas pumps. He added that Zulfi has managed to create quite a “community” of loyal customers in the many years that he’s owned the Malta business.

Councilman Timothy Dunn informed Zulfi and Ether that he wanted to see “mitigation for the neighbors” in a nearby trailer park. Dunn acknowledged the importance of improving infrastructure, but also said that Malta taxpayers should not be burdened in any way by the project.

Anthony Tozzi, the Town of Malta’s building and planning coordinator, said that current zoning rules for the site do not allow gas sales. But Zulfi was grandfathered in as a “legal non-conforming use,” he added.

“The downtown was supposed to emphasize non-auto related uses,” Tozzi explained, referring to an original plan among town officials to create more sidewalks for pedestrians near Malta’s main retail district a quarter mile to the north.

“We’re trying to fine-tune it,” Tozzi said.

In addition to RM Dalrymple, Zulfi is working with other contractors to plan the project, which is not likely to start until later this year at the earliest. Zulfi said he assumed full ownership of the Malta property only one year ago, after competing against other bidders and winning with a $1 million offer.

He said the Gloversville ZZ Mart is taxed at a rate of $16,000 per year.

There may be electric car charging stations and a Tim Horton’s at the Malta ZZ Mart, he said. He added that most of the trees behind the station would need to be cut down.

“I want to make a ‘Wow,’” Zulfi said. 

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