A newspaper advertisement had a profound impact on the lives of Edward A. Flores and his wife, Jovita C. Flores, back in 2005.
Both were just months into retirement from government service but were still young and were spending their days farming a piece of land in Kagman—just as they had planned.
The ad—for a commission agent for a Mobil gas station being built in Kagman—changed the course of their lives in ways they never imagined. The Flores couple, through their company, JEMCO Ltd., now runs three Mobil gas stations on Saipan—Kagman, Chalan Kiya, and CMG Mobil in San Jose.
Their commitment to the CNMI was sorely tested when Typhoon Soudelor hit Saipan in 2015 and then Super Typhoon Yutu hit Saipan and Tinian in 2018. Yet the couple and JEMCO soldiered on, knowing full well the importance of fuel to a region that is vulnerable to storms. For this, the Flores couple’s JEMCO Ltd. is Saipan Tribune’s Small Business of the Year.
The couple’s business began right after they retired.
Edward Flores, 55, retired from the Department of Public Safety as a police major in April 2004 after 20 years in the department.
Jovita Flores, 61, retired in December 2004 as clerk of court in the Superior Court after working in the Judiciary for 18 years.
At that time, the couple knew that Mobil was building a gas station in Kagman, where they live about a minute from the station. At that time, the Floreses were spending their days in a farm of their parents in Kagman.
“We passed by the project daily,” Jovita Flores said.
One day, Edward Flores saw a Mobil ad in the newspaper, announcing that it was looking for a commission agent to run the Kagman Mobil gas station.
Edward Flores was excited with the opportunity and potential challenges.
Jovita Flores was more hesitant. She knew that operating a gas service station would require a lot of time and a major commitment. Her parents—Frank and Julie Castro—operated a gas station in Garapan now known as Mobil Middle Road—from 1977 to 1997.
“I had experience with long hours and working through holidays, including Christmas, and even birthdays,” Jovita Flores said.
She did change her mind later and on May 20, 2005, the Flores couple, through their company JEMCO Ltd., began as commission agent for Mobil Oil Mariana Islands.
JEMCO Ltd. stands for Jovita, Edward, and M for their daughter Maggie. To complete the company’s name, they included their grandchildren—C is for Cassidee, O for Oliveeah Julee, L is for Lauren Jaee. T is for their son-in-law, Tonton, and D for their grandson, DingBoy.
To start the business, the couple got a loan from the bank. “Today, I would say that that was the best loan we obtained from the bank,” Jovita Flores said.
They said the operation of the business took off pretty smoothly. They said the management of Mobil Oil Guam put together everything that was needed for the station, including all products that they currently sell in the C Store.
The first few weeks were challenging, though, as everything was operated electronically. In 1977, there was no “point of sale,” just an ordinary cash register.
“We were provided training for our pump attendants and cashiers,” Jovita Flores said. “Ed and I spent our nights resting in our van until we were confident that our cashiers and pump attendants had full knowledge of the station’s operation.”
In November 2012, the couple acquired the second station—Chalan Kiya Mobil Station. Four years ago, they acquired the third station—the CMG Mobil in San Jose.
Since they retired young, they had the energy to commit to do what they are doing now. They actually know that other retirees are out in the market, either working or operating their own business.
“It just takes full commitment and love for what you are doing,” Jovita Flores said. “Be coming successful in business is driven by the effort, the time, the commitment, even communication with your business partner.”
That means communicating even between themselves. Jovita Flores said that, even though she and Edward Flores are married, they still talk about their daily concerns and their progress.
As for future plans, they are looking at more gasoline stations to operate.
“The selection to operate is solely at the discretion of Mobil Oil,” the two said.
The Flores couple believes that one of the key factors in their business is embracing their staff as family. “All employees are treated equally and fairly as if they are our children,” they said.