The Fives Towns has steadily been losing gas stations over the past few years. Recently, the family-owned Citgo station at 724 West Broadway in Woodmere closed up shop, with the service station moving in with another local station. Patch spoke to Jack Redash, one of the owners of the station, about the move.
Tell me about the history of your business.
My father, Andrew Redash, joined the business, A & A Service Station, in the mid 1940s after moving to Long Island from Summit Hill, Pa. He became a full partner in the business in 1955. Originally it was a Shell Oil Company station. It was converted to Citgo in the late 1990's. For most of these years, my father worked seven days a week, almost to the time of his death in October 2001.
It has always been a true family station in every sense of the word. At one time, all four of his sons, Andy, Allan, Tom and I, as well as his wife, Mary, worked at the station, doing everything from pumping gas, to keeping the books and records, billing, and car repairs. After my father's death in 2001, Tom and I took over full reign of the business. As far as I know, it is one of, if not the, longest running family-owned business in the Five Towns.
Tell me about the transition from West Broadway to Gritser's Service Station.
We recently relocated to 223 Rockaway Turnpike, renting space at another long-running shop. Although no longer selling gasoline, we have continued to maintain our current business name and telephone number (516-374-9671). We provide the same quality repairs and service that we have always provided in the past.
What brought about the change?
This move became necessary due to the rising costs of operating a small mom-and-pop-type business. Overhead, i.e., real estate taxes, insurance costs, regulatory fees and licenses, as well as other operating costs, have increased immensely, making maintaining a small business almost impossible. This is not only true in my industry, but any small business operation. All you have to do is look at all the vacant storefronts in the area.
How does the rental arrangement work?
The current shop owners, the Gritser family, and my family have been friends since the 1950s, when Frank Gritser opened his shop in Lawrence. It seemed only natural to join operations with the current owner, Joe Gritser.
How has the auto service industry changed over the years generally and specifically in the Five Towns?
The auto service industry has changed drastically over the years due to the complexity of the new technology of current automobiles. Many car owners now lease rather than buying a car outright, therefore reducing the amount of money they are willing to invest in a vehicle that they will only be keeping for three years. Also, cars are being made better and because of current economic conditions, car maintenance and/or repairs are put off because people do not have the money to make the repairs or maintain their vehicles as they should.
Meanwhile, there are also government regulations, such as requiring the removal of fiberglass tanks and requiring stations to have generators. Government is chasing a lot of people out of business. People can’t afford to keep a business anymore.
I've heard there has been a lack of talent in the industry. Is that true?
It is not so much the lack of talent as it is the complexity of the newer technology and the training necessary; it is nearly impossible to stay current with this technology. Not many mechanics can or are willing to invest the time to train or invest the money to purchase the very expensive diagnostic equipment needed to perform these complicated repairs.
Would you like to add anything else?
Many of our customers are children, grandchildren, and even sometimes great-grandchildren of original customers of my father's. We want to continue to serve these customers with the same reliable service that we have always been known for over the past 65 plus years. We continue to provide services that most other repair facilities do not offer, such as free pick up and delivery. We can usually meet or beat our competitors’ prices on repairs, tires, and maintenance items. Pease check out our Facebook page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.