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Full service survives in Hillsboro

Staff writer

Full-service gas stations are few and far between in a hurried society facilitated by gas cards, quick stops, and super-size options. But on the southeast corner of Ash and D streets in Hillsboro, Lowell Jost quietly goes about his business of listening to people as he pumps gas into their vehicles, cleans their windshields, checks oil, and puts air in tires, just as he has for the past 40 years at Jost Service.

“I guess I’ve always felt it was important to take care of people,” Jost said. “I’ve worked here at the same spot since high school. It’s what I’ve believed in doing all my life.”

Recently, Jost put up a new, red, refurbished gas pump at his corner station, replacing an older model that had been in use for almost a decade.

“There comes a time when things wear out and it is time to bite the bullet to replace them,” he said. “I joke that this is my Christmas present for the next five years, but I have to have it to stay in business.”

Jost said that loyal customers keep him in business as well.

“I wouldn’t say that I cater to any one segment of society,” he said. “But there are customers who just can’t or don’t want to get out and pump gas and I am glad to be there for them. If they ask, I also take the time to look and see if something is leaking or if there is a need for new tires. I can let them know what I think the problem might be, if there is one, and I refer them to a garage for help.”

Customer Ken Christiansen of Marion said he comes to Hillsboro to work, and he likes to visit with Jost while getting gas in his car.

“He is family,” Christiansen, a track coach at Tabor College, said. “We like to keep up on what is going on with each other.”

Jost helps Christiansen keep track of his college students, often seen running by the station as part of team workouts prescribed by their coach.

“I like to see them,” Jost said. “I visit with them when they stop by, too.”

In addition to visiting with those who stop by and tending to immediate car care needs, Jost sells water softener pellets, dog food, and tires.

“These are some things people sometimes need help loading, and it is convenient for me to load them up while the gas is pumping,” he said.

Dog food sales became part of the full service station offering about 25 or 30 years ago when Jost was a partner in the business with his brother, Jerry Jost.

“Oh there was dog food plant at Inman looking for distributors at that point,” he said. “We were a good location and worked with them a number of years.”

Jost said eventually the fledgling dog food company sold out to a bigger market, but by then several local customers liked the idea of buying dog food with their gas, so he always keeps a supply on hand for those people.

“I try to keep customers happy the best way I can,” he said. “Customer service is a lot about attitude. If I stub my toe or my own vehicle doesn’t start, I can’t carry that over into my work. I enjoy listening to others. I really think we all need to be good listeners.”

In addition to listening to customer concerns, Jost sells tires.

“We’ve sold tires here for over 60 years,” he said. “It is interesting that one of our primary suppliers, Shore Tire Company, went into business about the same time we did, and we are both still in business together. Our families have a good relationship that extends past our business association.”

Jost said that his father, John Jost, started Jost Service on the corner in 1946. The present building was built in 1955.

“My brother and I worked for our father until the mid-70s,” he said. “Then we took over the business.”

Jost enjoyed a partnership with his brother for 25 years before becoming sole manager of Jost Service in 1999.

There was a time when he worried the station might be shut down by the state because of new environmental regulations in the 1990s. Those problems were worked through, however, and business was allowed to continue as usual, with the addition of several new daily tasks.

“They were concerned about leak detection and we are very, very careful to follow guidelines established, because no one wants that to be a problem,” Jost said. “We have to stick measure the amount of fuel in the tank and take meter readings every day. The readings are sent to a company that compiles the data and checks for variance.”

Gas management details are part of Jost’s daily routine, just like listening to customers, changing oil, pumping gas, selling tires, dog food, and other related items. It is a routine he hopes to continue.

“I will be here as long as I am able,” he said. “It’s what I’ve always done. I enjoy it.”

Last modified Feb. 2, 2012

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