Friday, April 6, 2012

How I Ended Up Becoming A Floridian

Thursday night after I received the phone call that told me my gas station that I owned and operated for 24 years burned down it triggered so many thoughts in my mind it took me forever to get to sleep. Then Friday morning when I went by to view what remained of the station it brought back so many memories and I was thinking if it was not for that Shell station I probably would have never moved to Florida.

I will try to explain. In 1969 when I was living in Maryland the Baltimore Colts advanced to Super Bowl three to play the New York Jets in the Super Bowl.

I had never been to Florida before but my wife and I purchased one of those Super Bowl packages. It included 2 tickets to the game, a flight to Miami on a chartered airplane, a rental car waiting when we landed and a beautiful hotel accommodation on Miami Beach. Incidentally that whole package cost less than it now cost just for tickets to the game. LOL

The afternoon we left Baltimore to fly to Miami it was 23 degrees, the wind chill was about zero. We had an ice storm, the tree limbs and the electrical wires were sagging from the weight of the ice. We slipped and slid all the way to the airport on icy roads. We had a direct flight to Miami and in 2 hours we landed
 in Miami. That was back in the days before the planes taxied up to the terminals, you walked down steps from the plane and walked into the terminal. It was 83 degrees and the sun was shining. I remember thinking this must be what it is like to die and go the Heaven,

Although we had this beautiful hotel room Bubba wanted to spend one night with her brother Harry and his wife Maria in Boca Raton. I was awakened on Saturday morning by a familiar noise, I kept saying what is that noise, Bubba said instead if trying to guess what it is get up and look. I pulled the shade back and looked out the window and the guy next door was mowing his grass in January and we had just left an ice storm. At that moment I said to Bubba I am moving to Florida.

After we got home I became obsessed with moving to Florida. I would go to bed thinking about it, I would wake up thinking about it. I had literature from Chamber of Commerce, from different cities, etc. I sold my station in Maryland and started making trips to Florida to try to fine another business. I made several trips with no luck. Nine months went by and still no luck so I told Bubba I am going to make one more trip and if nothing happens I will come back and look for another business in Maryland or look for a job.

Again another trip with no luck. I got home on a Thursday and on Sunday I was reading the business opportunities in the Baltimore Sun and a head line jumped out at me. It said tired of shoveling snow, if so contact Shell Oil Company and it gave a number in Miami. I called the number and talked to a man for a long time, I told him my background in running a gas station and he asked to me come down for an interview. Long story short that's how I became a Shell Dealer in Florida and was able to make the move down. Next month in May it will be 39 years since I moved here.

As with any business we had our share of problems but overall it was a wonderful 24 years. We acquired a second station in 1984 and ran them both until we sold them in 1997. Bubba and I had this dream for years that we wanted to build a log home. Her health problems kept getting worse and I thought if I try to wait to I am 62 or 65 to retire we may never get to build her dream home. Bubba and I semi-retired in 1993 and Martha and Jimmy took over the day to day running of the business, the house was finished in 1994 so she got to live in it for four years and she loved every moment of it. So I have never regretted retiring early as she at least got to live her dream for a few years.

I never liked the idea of having a job where you went to work and did the same old job every day. Never had to worry about that running a service station, every day was different and at times very challenging.

I ran my station in Maryland for 8 years and 24 in Florida. I have told people over the years I could write a book about those experiences and they have asked why don't you. I always tell them other than people that have been in the service station business no one else would ever believe it. LOL

I still have some friends in the business and with all the turmoil of the high gas prices and the dealers getting a lot of the blame for it it is not a fun business any more. After all those years in the business I can tell you it is not the fault of the private service station owners. The higher the prices go in reality they make less money because after people fill their tanks they don't come into the stations for the other purchases which is where they actually make their money. Also because of the fees the station owners have to pay the credit card companies the higher the credit card charge it costs the dealers more money.