Updated: April 12, 2012 at 12:00 am
When Denny Lauer opened his downtown Texaco station across the street from Palmer High School, gasoline sold for less than 50 cents a gallon and few customers pumped their own fuel.
Although gas sells for nearly $4 a gallon in the Springs today, his station hasn’t sold any since 2006; instead, it has focused on selling and repairing used vehicles. The station will close May 25 and will be demolished shortly after for future redevelopment by the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region.
Lauer, 69, said he is closing Denny’s Auto Sales because the 2,154-square-foot building has fallen into disrepair since he gave it to the YMCA in 2007, knowing it would eventually be razed, and decided recently that he didn’t want to “spend another winter” working there.
Lauer said he plans on retiring and both of the station’s employees have found jobs at other garages.
“We still have a good customer base, although it is smaller than when we sold gas. The loyalty of our customers has been pretty incredible,” Lauer said. “My most lasting memory will be the acquaintances, friendships and the opportunity to help so many people over the years while making a living.”
A native of northern Minnesota, Lauer was drafted into the Army in 1962 and served a two-year hitch as a tank driver at Fort Carson. He bought the service station at 225 N. Nevada Ave. from John Senter in 1974, after working at a Texaco station on South Nevada Avenue for five years and owning a Gulf Oil station on South Tejon Street for several more years.
The station continued offering full-service gas pumps until Texaco left the Colorado Springs market in 2006; it was one of just three stations at the time that hadn’t gone completely self-service.
Lauer has fond memories of the many Palmer students who bought candy and soda from the station, which stopped selling those items a few years ago. He also has watched the city change around him, including Acacia Park across Nevada Avenue from the station. He remembers finding bullet holes in the windows of the station one morning after a gun battle in the park the night before between a Colorado Springs police detective and a suspect, though he noted that no one was injured in the episode.
“It’s been a pretty good 38-year ride,” Lauer said. “I have learned that customers want and need to be taken care of, but it bothers me that I may be abandoning people who may need help. There aren’t may places left where you can get air in your tires, the oil checked and a wiper blade replaced without a big charge. We still do a lot of free service. At most other garages, they will generate a work order and you will have to pay an hourly rate for the time spent providing those services. I am sad to see it end.”
Dan Dummermuth, CEO of the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region, said the group’s board of directors is scheduled to meet later this month to discuss how it will use the 21,000-square-foot parcel both in the short and long term.
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