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Citrus Heights business owner shares his story from poverty to success

Uddhav “Gary” Giri stands in front of his Valero gas station in Citrus Heights. // M. Hazlip

By Mike Hazlip–
Uddhav “Gary” Giri, longtime owner of the Valero gas station at Auburn Boulevard and Antelope Road, started out his life in a remote village in Nepal, before coming to the U.S. and working his way to success in business.

In an interview with The Sentinel, Giri said the village where he grew up had little access to the outside world.

“[Where] I was raised is a very remote village actually,” he said. “I grew up and went to high school and we didn’t have any electricity or anything.”

When Giri saw his first movie as a teenager, he thought the Hollywood-produced film with singing and dancing depicted the real life of the actor. But then he began to see more movies featuring the same lead.

“The actor was the same, but a totally different story with a different woman or in a different house,” he said. “Oh, my goodness. And then different women, different houses, different cars, different city. And I’m like, Holy cow, this guy got everything going.”

Giri started working at a hotel in his home country when a woman from New York came to stay. The two began a relationship that spanned half a world away.

“She came back here and I came here as a tourist visa and then visited here for about two or three months,” Giri said. “And I went back and then she spent some time and went back. Then you start missing each other.”

The two married in 1991 and first settled in a small apartment in San Leandro. A few years later, they bought their first home on a corner lot. Giri took out an equity line of credit to improve the house, increasing the square footage to about 1,800, he said.

About that time, Giri said many people were moving from the Bay Area to Sacramento, and with a growing family, he wanted access to better schools. Giri sold their home in the Bay Area and made the move to Sacramento with $270,000.

“That $270,000 became my seed money to explore the world,” he said.

He bought a house in Rocklin with 20 percent down and used the rest of their savings to buy the gas station at Auburn Boulevard and Antelope Road, which was then a Chevron. Soon after buying the business, Chevron and Texaco merged, freezing the asset for five or six years, Giri said. He finally purchased the property from Chevron in 2007 and started remodeling, adding a car wash and smog shop.

This year, Giri says he just sold the property for over $4 million.

The transition from Nepalese hotel worker to multi-millionaire has given Giri a sense of perspective that he uses to help others.

“I’m pretty active with the Nepalese community here, and then I share these things with them,” he said. “Also, as I see from both angles, here is what you guys are missing as I see this is this.”

As an immigrant himself, Giri says other immigrants can build bridges by reaching out to their neighbors and embracing some of the culture in the United States, something he says builds trust.

“Let that comfort build on both sides and then by doing that, I think your quality of your life improves dramatically,” he said.

Giri credits his success to hard work and discipline. After decades pf running a service station open seven days each week, he says he doesn’t know what he will do with all the free time once he cuts back to working only five days each week.

Soon after immigrating to the United States, Giri says he had a sense that he was not always accepted by others.

“In the early days I felt a little more aware of not being accepted right here,” he said. “But then slowly once I start getting familiar here, then I felt really comfortable at some point.”

The years Giri spent at the service station has helped him develop a sense of confidence, he says.

“Those seven, eight years running in the business was like getting a PHD in my self-confidence,” he said. “I learned quickly that people don’t have much respect, I just walk away.”

The road has not always been easy for Giri. Construction along Auburn Boulevard that reduced the amount of traffic coming to the gas station, and a bankruptcy in 2013 were some of the most difficult financial challenges Giri has faced with the business, he says.

Restructuring the business after emerging from bankruptcy was a “tremendous” help that made the business stronger, he says.

Over the years, Giri says he has had some customers promise to pay and never return, or bounce checks.

“Then again, there are a lot of good people,” he says. “They did pay on time or [took] care of it.”

While some customers have taken advantage of him, Giri says he’s seen more gain than loss for his efforts to serve his customers.

“I think overall it’s been an incredible journey, made me very strong mentally,” said Giri, reflecting on his beginnings in Nepal to becoming a business owner. “Overall, the business made money for me and made me a stronger person,” he said.

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