STEUBENVILLE - Steubenville resident Bill Leist is going to have to find a new gas station.
The former Sohio gas station turned BP gas and service station at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Wilshire Avenue in Steubenville will no longer sell fuel after Dec. 31.
"I have been buying gasoline from this station for more than 50 years. It was convenient and I always trusted Standard Oil. Now I'll have to decide where I want to go where I can get the same service,'' Leist said. ''I started buying gas at this station when it was owned and operated by Len Horton. He was a prince and always went out of his way for customers. Barry has been great and I will miss chatting with him when I stop for gas.''
Photo by Dave Gossett
Bill Leist of Steubenville has been buying gasoline at the service station on Sunset Boulevard for more than 50 years. He said he was sad to learn station owner Barry Robb will stop pumping gas on Dec. 31. Robb, left, talked about his decision with Leist at the station, which will continue to offer vehicle service.
"I hope you still stop by for us to service your car. And to talk about the great times in Steubenville," Robb told Leist during a conversation in the station's waiting area.
Leist won't be alone in his search for a new gas station after word of Barry Robb's plans to shut down his gas pumps began to spread among his customers.
"December 31 will be my last day. I already told my staff that I will be working that day because I want to thank my loyal customers and say goodbye. But I also want to assure them we will remain a service station," Robb explained during a busy afternoon at the station that has been at the Sunset Boulevard site since 1946.
Robb has been pumping gas at the Sunset Boulevard site for the past 37 years.
"I started working for Bob Cline who took over the station from Len Horton. Bob ran the station until 1985 and then I took over. I bought the station and have run it since then," added Robb.
"I was a senior at Big Red in 1976 when I started working at a Sohio service station. That part-time job turned into a career for me. It was the only job I ever had. I have been lucky to have met some wonderful people during the past 35 years. I knew many of the Sohio station owners and now most of them are gone.
"I gave my guys extra hours because for the final few days we are offering self service prices at our full service pumps and full service at our self service pumps. We are cleaning windows and checking oil and air pressure. We are bringing back the atmosphere that used to be at all gas stations and having fun at the same time.''
Robb has also stepped up his campaign to convert the BP station to a Sohio gas station of days gone by.
"We are all wearing the Sohio pinstripe shirts. We have the Sohio hats, and Dan Nobile is also wearing a Sohio tie. And we are offering the friendly approach customers used to find at Sohio gas stations," Robb said.
"I started collecting this stuff because I wanted to save part of the local Sohio service station history. I have been able to collect photos from the old Sohio stations. And I have been buying some of the Sohio signs and supplies on eBay. This has become a fun project for me as a way to remember the guys who made Sohio successful in this area.
"I am stopping the gas business because it is so hard to compete these days. We are one of the last fill serve BP stations left in Ohio, so discontinuing our fuel operations was a very difficult decision for me. My contract with the Hartley Oil Co. ended Thursday and I feel this is the right decision at the right time.
"I am excited about the future of my service station. Several years ago I had the crazy idea of restoring the station to its original Sohio colors. I told my friends and my wife Connie that during my final days of pumping gas I would be at a Sohio station. And after a lot of hard work we have a Sohio station in Steubenville again.
"My entire crew has been fantastic during the conversion from BP to Sohio. Dan Nobile is like a mad scientist figuring out how we can make things work here. John Ross, Jamie Brockway, Dave Albaugh, Mike Ross, Dave Cesaro and Gary Kijanka were all a big part of the restoration. I believe John Ross has probably painted every square inch of the station. And BP and the Hartley Oil Co. have been very supportive of our restoration project.
"I started pumping gas here in 1976 when it was all full service. We are now giving our customers the full service the way Sohio stations offered 35 years ago. I just wish I could give them the 1976 gas prices again. This station has had a good run in Steubenville and I'm grateful to have been along for the ride.
"We plan to grow our service station in 2012. Our station has been nominated as an Ohio historical building. I think this will actually allow us to expand our service.
"And I invite our customers and area residents to stop by and see what life was like at a service station before cell phones, iPads and self-service.''