EMMA ROUTLEY/THE CHRONICLE Creswell 76 Station owner Bill Spencer watches members of his crew service a customer’s car and deliver a surprise award bag.
CRESWELL – It was a day for fist bumps all around the new gas pumps. Customers were pumped up, student staffers were pumping fuel, and owner Bill Spencer was, well, simply pumped.
“It’s a good day. A good day,” he said in understated fashion, a mask covering a smile too big to conceal. “I think it’s gonna work.”
It was working at top speed Saturday, March 13, as Spencer, the longtime Creswell entrepreneur, community leader, and owner of the 76 Station property along Mill Street and Oregon Avenue, played host to a party that acknowledged the formal opening of the expanded convenience store and gas pumps.
It had the air of a county fair, missing only the scent of fried Twinkies.
As a 15-minute slideshow played inside the convenience store – photos of the nearly yearlong, phase one demolition and redevelopment project played on a loop – Spencer accepted congratulations while also overseeing the hectic scene.
Cheri and Clent Westerkamp, Cottage Grove residents who work in Springfield and Eugene, said they make a point of stopping at the Creswell 76 because of service and price.
“We love coming here. We make a point of filling up here,” Cheri said. Unaware of the grand-opening festivities, the couple won a random prize during their fill-up. “The prices are good, and we appreciate the professionalism.”
EMMA ROUTLEY/THE CHRONICLE Store manager Jesse Thomas with a customer who won a goodie bag on Saturday.
One participant, Donna Nickell of Springfield, said she wouldn’t have missed the celebration. She worked for Spencer pumping gas “at the old gas station” in 1992.
“Today is like old-home week for me,” she said. “I couldn’t have imagined something like this back then. It’s part of why I came. I had to see it.”
She credited Spencer for more than his business. “Bill has always supported the community … the schools, churches, kids,” she said.
Creswell City Planner Maddie Phillips said the redevelopment was more than a morale boost.
“It can have a positive multiplier effect,” she said. “It puts a new face on our front door step. And it’s inspired folks who might have had trepidation dealing with the city or ODOT. Uniquely, Creswell has a lot of property fronting state roadways. … We got through this one with Bill, which is a bit of a victory in its own way. It has set a positive tone for how folks can expect to work with the City and ODOT in future projects.”
Spencer said he hopes Creswell benefits from the new buildings and pumps, but more importantly from every interaction there.
“I think we can already say that the public can see it’s going to be attractive,” he said Sunday afternoon, after a day of reflection. “It’s as somebody said yesterday, it’s going to be a substantial part of the face of Creswell for many years. I want people’s experience to be equally as important. I want the people who travel and choose to exit here to see us.
“We’ve always had this goal to reinforce the ‘Friendly City’ term. We make that a priority; we choose to try to serve with a heart of service. That means automatically that we’re one of the stronger components of the image in the town in terms of service, and now we’re trying to make the appearance go with that.”
Customer comments almost always include a reference to the student employees, he said.
“I like to think that in over 45 years of hiring youth we have made a difference in some of their lives and in what many of us consider to be the identity of our town,” Spencer said. “None of us are able to achieve as much as we would like but all of us can make a difference.”
EMMA ROUTLEY/THE CHRONICLE Khloe Seeley, 13, helped customers sample free bagels and other snacks.
Inside the store, the front counter saw a steady stream of foot traffic and heard plenty of compliments, too.
Pam Spencer, Bill’s wife, and Kathy Thompson, a longtime leader within Spencer’s operations, organized raffles, free food tastings, basket giveaways and more.
Khloe Seeley, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Creswell Middle School, handled the free samples of bagels, cookies and other treats. She patiently explained to patrons, and a reporter, how the free samples would help determine buying patterns for the store in order to best meet customer needs.
Back outside under the canopy, the Creswell High School Bulldogs athletics boosters were hosting a giveaway – a “golden ticket” that included the first car wash. Spencer said they raised about $300 for the winning ticket.
And, speaking of the car wash, Spencer told The Chronicle it’s full-steam ahead with phase two of the redevelopment.
His team already is in the demolition process of the old station on the corner of Mill St. and Oregon Ave. The gas lines are being emptied and the pumps are being dismantled. He’s hopeful the building will be demolished by the end of March, and is working with the City on permitting and processes. Spencer made the point that the building would be demolished, but removing the old canopy would be a bigger project down the road.
The lowering and dismantling of the canopy will take several weeks; after that, the old tanks would be removed.
Spencer said he’s assessing equipment needs and looking at numerous blueprints for the new car wash; he said it would take at least three months to complete after he chooses one.
“It has to be done this year,” he said. “I’ve got to go see my granddaughters on the East Coast.”