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Croghan station ending full-service gas business

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CROGHAN — After 60 years of full-service gasoline sales, Monnat & Nortz Service Station is shifting gears.

The long-time Main Street business will discontinue its gasoline sales around Nov. 16 to focus on vehicle service and repair.

“We have no ill feelings toward this at all,” said co-owner Stephen G. Monnat. “This is a business move. It’s a sign of the times. We appreciate what our loyal customers have done over the years.”

“We’re not going anywhere,” added his brother and business partner Peter J. Monnat, noting that the business simply is changing its focus.

The impending move will leave Mullin’s Service Station on South State Street in Lowville as Lewis County’s lone full-service gas station.

“I’m sorry to see it happen,” owner Robert J. Mullin said, recalling times he attended conferences with the Monnats when they were both Mobil dealers. “But I can see where they’re coming from.”

Mr. Mullin said he fully understands the difficulty of the business, particularly after going through a gasoline price war fueled by new and remodeled convenience stores in Lowville, and added he appreciates his customers’ support.

“I hope we can continue to do it,” he said, noting some people have never pumped gas in their lives.

“Times are changing, and not necessarily for the better,” Mr. Mullin said.

In a letter posted at the shop and sent to customers, the Monnats explained the rationale for their decision.

“We believe that you would agree with us that there have been a lot of changes in the way we do business in today’s fast pace world, more specifically the gas business,” the letter states. “Gas margins have not increased in over twenty years and continue to be eroded by the higher costs of doing business in today’s economy. Credit card fees, ever changing DEC and EPA requirements, higher sales taxes, equipment feeds and rental charges are just a few directly related to the retail gas business.”

The Monnats, who were named the 2006 Lewis County Chamber of Commerce Businessmen of the Year, said the most difficult part of the move has been informing long-time customers, some of whom rarely have purchased gas anywhere else, that they no longer will be able to fuel up their vehicles at their shop.

“It’s more than just a customer here,” Stephen Monnat said. “It’s a relationship.”

The shop will continue to sell propane, and the brothers hope to maintain their customer base for oil changes, tire sales and other mechanical and vehicle service work.

The business also will continue to accept credit cards, but the move will allow the Monnats to get rid of one of their two credit card systems to lower overhead costs.

The brothers — who got the blessing of original owners Gilbert J. Monnat, their father, and Howard Nortz before announcing the change — said the gasoline portion of the business hadn’t been breaking even in years, particularly as more local residents began to do their shopping outside the small village. It became even more difficult in recent years, as escalating gas prices caused more people to bargain shop and avoid the full-service station, which regularly has charged several more cents per gallon than its self-serve competitors.

If anything, the community support “kept us in it this long,” Stephen Monnat said.

With gasoline removed, Monnat & Nortz employees will have more time to dedicate to the service portion of the business, as they won’t need to stop what they’re doing for someone who pulls in for gas, the Monnats said.

The brothers added that, given their long history of full-service, it likely would have been even more difficult for customers to accept a move to a self-service model.

With the change in focus will come a change in hours.

New business hours will be 7 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays.


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