WYOMING, Mich. -- It's one of the last full serve gas stations in West Michigan, and now after 67 years on the corner of 28th and Byron Center the team at Don's Full Serve Gas are closing down the pumps for good.
For the past 50 years, Don and Hank have been pulling into the station bright and early six days a week, but that routine will end April 29.
“Well we’re at the age of retirement. I’m 65, my business partner Don is 68 and we have a mechanic, he’s also 65," explains Hank Bloem, Co-owner of Don’s Full Service. "We thought sooner or later we’re going to have to do it and we thought now we have grandchildren and we still have our health so now is the time."
While retirement sounds nice to co-owners Hank Bloem and Don Tigchelaar, it's not going to be an easy goodbye.
Tigchelaar tells FOX 17, “It’s been very difficult, we’ve had customers actually shed tears, we’ve shed some tears with some people, it’ll be different.”
Before they go, they're looking back, and with the help of Tigchelaar's sons they are making a documentary.
“We grew up coming here, cleaning the doors," says Mark Tigchelaar, "they gave us the grunt work. There’s some really special memories here."
Don's sons are not the only ones who had their first jobs with the station. Hiring was a point of pride for Hank and Don.
“First impressions on the young men and women that have worked here is what our goal was," Hank Bloem explains. "So you have to treat them right, you have to do things right so to get them ready for the future.”
Some of their employees have gone on to be pastors, electricians and teachers, but the mechanic Hank and Don hired 30 years ago, stuck with them.
“I was out of work for two and half years and I came here saying I could start working part time again about four hours a day with a cane," Mechanic Jon Vanthof tells FOX 17. "As I got better I got on full-time, so I’ve been working 6 days a week for 30 years.”
Bloem, Tigcherlaar and Vanthof have been working 6 days a week, closed only on Sundays. In a few weeks though, they will close their garage doors for the last time.
Bloem says, “I probably could drive past it easier than Don can, but I’ll stay away for awhile."
Don Tigchelaar chimed in, “It’ll take me awhile, I don’t think I’m going to drive by it for awhile.”
With the closing of Don's it's the end of an era for full service gas stations in West Michigan. The last day to get a full serve fill up in Wyoming is April 29.