Growing up in Rumson and living for Fair Haven for over 45 years, I find myself pointing out to my kids as we drive through town, what used to be this and that.
“Crazees used to be Dairy Queen” and “Video on the Ritz was a Cumberland Farms.”
Usually this is met with teenage eye-rolls, but something did occur to me the other day ...
What happened to all the gas stations?
Let’s take a little spin through the towns, and see if you remember all the gas stations that once were:
• Corner of Ave of Two Rivers and Ridge Road, across from the Oceanic Library, is now a professional building. It was once was home to a Mobil station.
• Corner of River Road and Carton Street, up until recently Rumson China & Glass, once was an Aamoco station.
• Ridge Road, between Black Point Road and North Street, now a brick professional building, once was Gaynor’s Shell station.
• Corner of Ridge Road and North Street, currently an empty lot, once was a Gulf station.
• Corner of Bingham Avenue and River Road, now a real estate office, was once Pomphrey’s Citgo station.
• Corner of River Road and Gillespie Avenue, currently Fair Haven (Two River) Animal Hospital, was a gas station. (You can still see the curbing left over.)
• Corner of River and Fair Haven roads, now shops, including Gourmet Picnic, was a gas station.
• Corner of River Road and Cedar Avenue, the Sunoco station that recently closed down.
• River Road, across from Acme, now Foreign Cars of Monmouth, sold gas.
So, that leaves two: Valero in Fair Haven, and Exxon in Rumson, from a field of that once included 11! (Let me know if I missed any.)
What happened to all these trusted local businesses that provided great service, and even gas-on-account?
As the rise of the American automobile pulsed through our area in the 40’s 50’s and 60’s, gas, oil, and repair were paramount — you needed someone that would care for your car on an ongoing basis.
The local, personalized service station took care of everything, from putting on snow tires to washing windshields with every fill up, checking oil and filling tires with air (for free!)
Most families had loyalties to a specific station (my Dad was a loyal visitor to Mr. Gaynor’s Shell station) Service was so good, Mr. Gaynor would drive to our house, pick up our car and take it to the station for an oil change, and bring it back!
It felt like a lot changed during the 1973 gas crisis. We all awoke to the fact that gas was a commodity. It was the first time I remembered going somewhere else for gas, because the little stations in town weren’t getting allocation. (Remember the red flags?)
Additionally, back then cars needed more repairs, and dealerships were not as focused on service and inclusive warranties as they are today.
In the 80‘s, the concept of leasing exploded, and that meant that owners turned cars over after just three or four years, before they needed serious repairs, and the cars themselves were becoming less serviceable — more computerized parts and sealed components meant dealer repairs only.
As a result, it appears that the repair business became less attractive, and it’s probably hard to make a living on the thin margins of just selling gas.
This once thriving local industry is shrinking. It is a sign of changing times, and improved technology in cars.
Got any local gas station memories? Share them in the comments section below.