Stevens Gas Station
Stevens Gas Station of Knox, NY
Buggies to Buicks: 70 years of service at Stevens' gas station
The Helderberg Sun, Tuesday, March 4, 1975
Knox Notes - Helen Munroe
The building now known as “Stevens Gas Station" has served public transportation for better than 70 years. First as a blacksmith and wagon shop. Then, since May 6, 1931, as a gas station.
Daniel Webster (Web) Stevens and his wife Edna first opened for business with hand crank pumps, and homemade ice cream.
Margaret (Cy) Stevens, who now runs the business, told me her father purchased the building from some people named Baxter, on March 4, 1929. In the Iess harried days of the 1700's and 1800's, it was not felt necessary to record a deed, so the Baxters owned the building for 30 years. It is not known exactly how old the building is, but it is believed it is one of the first buildings in Knox.
Knox was separated from Berne on Feb. 28, 1822 and received its name from Colonel Knox of Revolutionary fame.
When Web bought the building, the ground floor still contained the blacksmith shop, so the upstairs apartment was rented fn Louis Briggs, while the ground floor was converted to an ice cream parlor and kitchen. Although modernized today, the original beams have been retained. As I sat at Cy's kitchen table looking at those beautiful old beams, I wondered what kind of tales they would tell if able to speak. It gives you a feeling of awe to think that you may be sitting in the very spot where some great historical event took place.
Edna sold candy and cigarettes and made ice cream from cream and eggs purchased from the Sheridon Sadlemire farm on Street Road, now owned by Fred Fortuin. And Web froze the ice cream in a hand crank freezer using ice from an ice house located on the John Bogardus farm, now owned by Aldo DiCamillo.
Once they got the business going, the Stevenses moved from their home next to the school, which is now the fire house, believed to have been owned by Dave Honour and now owned by Roger Van Wormer.
Cy and sister Virginia were just little girls at that time, so Cy has seen many changes over the years. For example, in those days, kerosene sold for 6 cents per gallon and gas sold for about 10 cents per gallon.
Today, Cy’s gas is delivered to her by her brother Marshall, who runs a very successful fuel business. Brother Ray runs a trucking business. The Stevens, like the Saddlemires, Quays, and many others, are long time residents of Knox, they have played a large part in the history of the town, and continue to do so today. Ina book, “Landmarks of Albany County” loaned to me by Cy, written by Amasa J. Parker of Albany, in 1897, the portion about the history of Knox contain many familiar names… Witter, Barkley, Keenholtz, Galllup, VanAuken, Schoonmaker, Gage, Chesebro, Haverly, Frink and Quay. These people, and thousands of others like them, and the individuals who have made America what it is today, the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.”
Stevens' Gas Station - Sept. 6, 1990 - Altamont Enterprise
Standing Small in Knox – Stevens’ Gas Station
Altamont Enterprise, Thursday, September 6, 1990
Two celebrations of the small and local
We often equate the large and official with the important.But here The Enterprise' celebrates the virtues of the small and less official, against the officialdoms of business and government.
Mobil Oil Corporation now requires look-alike, lit-up canopies and signs for its gas stations across the country. But Margaret Stevens — who has pumped Mobil gas for 36 years from her station on Route 156 in Knox—isn't going to comply. "I can't afford it. It's too much money for me," she said. As a consequence, starting Sept. 1, Stevens can no longer accept Mobil credit cards from her customers, and can no longer advertise that she sells Mobil gas.
Slice of America
The Mobil station in Knox looks like a picture from our past — small-town America at its best. It's located on the main street in town, Route 156, about half way between the fire house and the country store. A few gas pumps sit out front of a white clapboard building. Green striped awnings hang over the glassed-in front porch, where neighbors pause to greet each other and exchange news. Ice cream and sodas are for sale in the front room where old-fashioned wooden tables and benches await customers.
Church bells can be heard ringing from across the street, mingled with the bell that indicates a customer has pulled in for gas. Margaret Stevens is ready to answer the call. Although she has just turned 64, she moves with the energy and purpose usually reserved for 12-year-old kids dogging fly balls. The customer, a shirtless young man, who got $10 worth of gas, says he'll be by later on in the afternoon to pay. Stevens doesn't bat an eye. "Yah," she says matter-of- factly, "he will." She knows her customers well, and the trust is mutual. She's been serving them for generations. Her father, Daniel Webster Stevens (known - to friends and neighbors simply as "Web" bought a dilapidated old black' smith shop at the site in 1929. On May 6,1931,- he opened for business selling Esso gasoline. In 1954, the Stevenses started selling Mobil gas. When Webster died 20 years ago, his daughter took over the business and has been running it ever since.
Most of her business comes from selling gasoline. She's outside in all kinds of. weather, waiting on her customer. "It doesn't bother me," she said. "I bundle up." She works long hours, seven days a week. Weekdays, she opens at 6 a.m., and closes at 10 p.m. She shortens her usual 16-hour workdays on weekends. Saturdays she doesn't open until 6:30 a.m., and Sundays she opens at 7:30 a.m.; she stays open until 10 p.m. weekends, too. Stevens shrugs, unimpressed with her rigorous schedule, and simply calls it "farmer's hours."
"It's my living," she says, and adds, "It keeps me healthy." She lives in the house with the store front that faces the pumps and says that when she needs to leave, to do some shopping, for example, someone will mind the store for her. "I've got a lot of good relations," said Stevens.
One of them, she says, is her brother Marshall Stevens, who runs the Mobil fuel oil business in Knox. "My brother waits on me." said Stevens, explaining that every day one of his trucks will come to fill her small tanks, which hold only 550 gallons, with Mobil gasoline.
That's why she said she'll stick with Mobil, even though they now won't let her advertise their product or accept their credit cards. "Their policy is to have all their stations look alike, with a canopy, new lights, and a lit-up sign," explained Stevens. They want company stations. They don't want the little guy."
Don Turk, a Mobil spokesman from Dallas, said the requirements are part of a nationwide trend of "uniform marketing. '"We want, to make our stations easily recognizable," he said. "This will assure customers passing by they can stop and get a good quality, product at an affordable price."
He said that the required canopy and lighting would allow for "easy and convenient access... safe flow through of traffic... protect the customer from the weather." "We have certain design standards we abide by," said Turk "and we do require some minimum standards of appearance (be met) to advertise Mobil gasoline and use our credit cards... That's to assure our customers they're getting quality Mobil products."
Turk said that most Mobil gasoline is sold though franchise dealers. "They make up 70 percent of our business," he said. Their gasoline is delivered by the company, rather than individually, and the company has a real estate investment in the franchise dealership. Stevens says the bad weather never bothers her customers, because she pumps the gas for them And she doesn't think she'd like the looks of a big modern canopy in her front yard, even if she could afford it.
Stevens anticipates the new restrictions may hurt her business some, but notes she can still accept Visa and Mastercard. She said, "Some salesmen that have to use a company card, they won't stop," But she thinks her regular customers will stick by her. "They're mad," she said. "They can't believe they could do this to me."
Stevens says she plans to continue her business as she always has. "I have no choice," she said. "They're not going to put me under." Stevens concluded,"As long as the Lord gives me my health, I'll be here."
Si Stevens keeps on pumpin': Margaret Stevens pumped Mobil gas last week —just at the has for 36 years — from her quaint station on Route 156 in Knox.