Missoula gas station closing after 57 years

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Where will the elderly, disabled or busy mothers with young children go to have a friendly attendant fill up their gas tanks after this weekend?

That’s a tough question, because Gary Little, owner of Gary’s Service Station (not Gary’s Conoco, he was careful to tell us) is closing the only full-service gas station in Missoula after this weekend. .

Gary Little sat down and shared the story of his iconic company with us on Wednesday afternoon.

“I’ve worked at this place for 57 years,” Little began. “In 1965 I leased it to Conoco, then over the years the ownership changed several times and the Tremper brothers ended up owning it, then they sold it to me in 1998. So I’ve been here all this time.”

Little looked back on the long years and the thousands of cars and trucks that passed and filled up at Gary’s on South Higgins while he pumped gas and did auto repairs and noted how the times had changed in his profession.

“When I started, there was a gas station almost on every corner, in fact there were 54 in Missoula, and we were all full service,” he said. “We were all competing against each other with different brands of gasoline, but we were all doing the same kind of repair and maintenance work. And we all did really well, you know, we managed to make a living. Then someone started selling self-serve gasoline, and that’s when it all started to go downhill in so many places. It was hard for us too for a long time, but that’s what cut most real gas stations.

A bit more expensive for a full service, but he said his loyal customers don’t care because they so appreciate someone going out and filling up the tank while checking the oil and tires.

You could hear the compassion in his voice as he said he was concerned that many of these customers had nowhere else to go for this kind of comprehensive service.

“Full-service gasoline for, say, a pregnant woman with two kids who doesn’t want to get out of the car and back and forth in it or for people with disabilities,” he said. “We have a lot of disabled customers. I just don’t have an answer for them. They are going to have to find what works for them, you know a grandson or a friend or someone who is going to have to help them.

So what’s next for Gary Little when that Monday rolls around?

“Okay, 57, I want to retire,” he laughed. “I am 80 years old and I want to quit. That’s the reason. My son Tim works with me, but he is not yet of retirement age. He will therefore have to find a job elsewhere, but that will not be a problem. He is well liked and has many skills and it will not be a problem at all. But unfortunately, he can’t retire at the same time as me.

Credit: Pierre Christian

Credit: Pierre Christian

It’s not often that I get to shake hands with an icon, but it was a pleasure to meet Gary Little in person, especially since he said he was a loyal listener. of KGVO and that he loved Talk Back.

Best wishes to Gary Little and Gary’s Conoco, I mean, Gary’s Service Station, the end of an era in Missoula.

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