Grandin Automotive is one of a handful of mom and pop service stations around town that still pumps customers’ gas, checks their oil and washes their windshields.
Sometimes, they take “full service” to the extreme. It’s not unheard of for mechanic Tim Kessler, who has worked there 25 years, to go over to an elderly customer’s house and wheel her trash out to the curb, or change a light bulb.
But it looks like this is the last month for the Grandin Business District landmark. Owner Bill Millner says he’s purchased his last load of gas. It’ll be gone by the end of this week. Chances are good he’ll shut down Dec. 31.
“I haven’t made any money in four years,” Millner told me Monday morning. “I fought it hard, fought it and fought it.”
Millner used to employ six mechanics. He’s laid off three, and the others haven’t had a raise in five years. He used to have television in his waiting room for customers. He cut that out to reduce expenses, along with magazine and newspapers subscriptions.
He’s renegotiated his contracts for trash hauling and insurance, cut back on his own salary, and cut out his wife’s salary entirely – she’s retired from Verizon, and does the station’s books.
Still, he’s losing money on every gallon of self-service gas he sells, he says. About 80 percent of sales are via credit card, and banks charge fees as high as 4.5 percent for those transactions.
“I remember three to four years ago, my [former] bookkeeper called and said, “You did fantastic on gas last month. You only lost $2,” he said ruefully.
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