UPDATED — After almost 80 years in business, the PumpHouse will no longer be pumping gas as of late July.
“It’s a landmark in Old Town,” owner Jim Ross says.
The area has changed, though, and the PumpHouse is changing with it.
Five years ago, Ross and his wife, Judy, converted part of their property into a bar and restaurant. It has done so well, it’s edged out some of their gas business.
“The bar has become so popular that people now think it’s just a parking lot, and they’ll pull up at the pump and go inside,” Jim Ross says. “They think the gas pumps are fake. We can’t even sell gas.”
The Rosses have expansion plans.
“We need to do things like add to our food menu and develop the rest of our property,” Jim Ross says. “It’s just got a lot of potential that we haven’t tapped yet.”
It’s probably not quite what his father envisioned in 1931 when he first opened a gas station.
“He started in a location just about nine blocks from here, right across the street from the new arena,” Ross says of his late father, Bob.
“The guy that was in this location went broke, and Vickers Petroleum asked my father to come take this location.”
That was in the late ’30s.
“He had a lot of the downtown commercial business at that time,” Ross says.
Commercial sales, such as to a large cab company, were a big part of the PumpHouse’s business.
Ross went to work there in 1959. He took over the shop when his father retired in the early 1970s.
“As the downtown started declining, business started moving to the suburbs,” Ross says. “The gasoline business declined a little bit.”
The service side of his business did well, though.
So did an unexpected side of the Rosses’ business.
Twenty years ago, Judy Ross used to make sandwiches for employees.
Customers smelled her cooking and suggested she make food to go.
“One thing led to another,” she says.