GREENFIELD — Sarah Brain commutes to her Greenfield job from Indianapolis, and twice each week she stops at the only gas station in town where she can get a fill-up without getting out of her car.
She hopes it stays that way at what used to be Greenfield’s Swifty gas station, but the future is far from certain.
“Sometimes, my grandbaby is in the back, sometimes it’s the weather, mostly it’s just the convenience,” Brain said Tuesday as she waited under the awning of the full-service pump lane while employee Patricia Williams put $20 worth of gas in the tank.
For years, the full-service lane – where customers can get gas pumped for them for an additional 10 cents per gallon – was the main attraction at the service station at 1313 N. State St. in Greenfield.
However, this spring, the Greenfield Swifty joined a growing number of other stations owned by the Seymour-based company that closed with little warning and no explanation.
The last vestige of a time when a customer could pull up to the pump and yell “fill ‘er up” from a rolled-down window was gone in Greenfield – or so it looked.
In early May, Rushville-based Herdrich Petroleum Corp. purchased the gas station for $171,000, county records show.
When the station reopened on May 15, it initially eliminated full-service gas pumping.
And that didn’t go over well with the locals, said Samantha Whitfield, who signed on as a night shift employee just a few days after the establishment got back to business.
“People would get mad,” Whitfield said. “People would drive off.”
Especially the older folks, the ones who account for most of the full-service business, employees say.
“Even when we didn’t (pump gas) for the first few days, I would pump for them because it could have been my grandma or anybody’s grandma,” Whitfield said.
Based on the few weeks she’s been manning the pumps, Whitfield said the full-service lane could account for about half the station’s business, “especially at night,” she said.
The acquisition was just one of some 14 Swifty stations HPC has recently purchased, said company president Bill Herdrich.
“We bought stations in Fort Wayne, Shelbyville, Connersville, Knightstown, New Castle, Warsaw and some in the southern part of the state,” Herdrich said.
With operations in Greenfield under the HPC umbrella a little more than a month old, the company is still feeling its way toward what the site will ultimately look like and what services – including whether or not attendants will be available to pump gas – will be provided.
“We’re still working on that,” Herdrich said. “School’s just out, and we haven’t been out of school long enough.”
Herdrich said the company has attempted to keep some of its new acquisitions operating as they did under the Swifty banner with a full-service lane, but the transisition is still in progress.
The company is currently exploring options to build a new convenience store behind the current building; however, zoning, easement issues and development rules will heavily influence that decision, he said.
It is also still undetermined which brand of fuel the company will sell at the location and what flag the station will fly.
According to a Bloomberg Businessweek company profile, Swifty was founded in 1963 by Donald Myers, who continued to run the company until his death last July.
At that time, it was reported the company owned 181 gas stations and convenience stores.
A Swifty employee said Tuesday the company usually does not comment on station closings, and calls to corporate leaders were not immediately returned.
HPC was formed in 1953 as Herdrich Oil Co. by Jim Herdrich in Connersville. In 1971, Herdrich’s son, Bill, started Browing and Herdrich Oil Co. in Rushville, which later became known as Herdrich Petroleum Corp.
According to the firm’s website, the company supplies fuels to independent gas stations along with consulting and advisory services.
It has a workforce of more than 200 employees and operates 20 Quickpix convenience stores throughout Indiana.
Shell, Marathon and Phillips 66 are among the branded fuels the company provides to independent operations.
Though the question of whether the company will continue providing attendants at the pump is still up in the air, local manager Bob Raggi said people have been pleased – especially older residents – that the station has reopened with someone available to pump their gas.
“People are happy,” Raggi said.
Whatever happens in terms of configuration and service, Herdrich said he’s sure Greenfield will be pleased with it.
“Good things are coming,” he said.
For some Greenfield customers, however, good things come with an attendant to put gas in the tank, or there’s not much reason to stop.
“If they stop pumping gas, I’ll just go down the street,” Brain said.