Kearins to close service station
By ELISA SAND, Staff Reporter
Thirty-nine years of loyal customers have helped make Kearin's Service station what it is today, but customers will soon have to find another place for fuel and tune-ups.
Kearin's Service Station will soon close. Brothers Denny (left) and Mike Kearin have operated the station at its present location for 22 years and have been in business in Madison for 39 1/2 years.
Denny and Mike Kearin will soon be closing their doors for the last time.
"It's been a lot of fun," Denny Kearin said.
The brothers started working together in 1973, when Denny Kearin returned from five years, seven months and 28 days of service in the military (1966-72), where he spent the bulk of his active duty at the NATO headquarters in The Netherlands.
"I was very fortunate," he said.
When he returned to Madison in 1972, younger brother Mike was already working, so Denny spent a few months working at a service station in Brookings before opening the Mobile station and asking brother Mike to join him.
That Mobile station was located where the Dakota State University Foundation is today.
After a couple of years, the Kearins moved to the Phillips 66 station, which was located where Subway is now. That's when they became business partners. After 15 years in that location, the brothers built their own service station at its present site.
Now, 22 years after that building opened for business, the brothers will soon close the doors one last time. Asked when that day might be, the two shrugged and said they weren't sure. The gas tanks are empty and they plan to sell their inventory of oil and tires before they close.
Looking back, the brothers have no regrets.
"It's been a very good career," Denny Kearin said. "We didn't have much when we started."
In addition to the service station, the brothers also had a couple of side businesses along the way. At the Mobile station, the brothers also ran a city-subsidized taxi.
"We hired an older guy to drive," Denny Kearin said, estimating his age at around 70 years. "One snowy day, his mom called and said he wouldn't be in to work."
Kearin explained that their cab driver was stuck in another state in a snowstorm.
Eventually, that service was sold to John Eisenbeis, who ran the service station across from Sunshine Foods.
The Kearins also rented U-Hauls from their present location and the Phillips station for about 20 years.
As the brothers moved from station to station, their customers followed.
"The customers we started with in 1973 stayed with us," Mike Kearin said.
Both men admit they wouldn't have had the successful business they did without their loyal customers.
"Without them, we couldn't have been here for 39 years," Mike Kearin said.
In retrospect, Denny Kearin said it would have been fun to keep a diary.
"There's a lot of humorous things that have happened over the years," he said.
Mike Kearin recalled one customer who came in one day complaining of a noise in her car.
"We went for a ride with her and couldn't hear it," he said.
Kearin said she left determined to find another mechanic who could hear the noise. She called back later in the day to report she had found the source of the noise, which had followed her in the house. It was her hearing aid.
Denny Kearin said they got a routine visit from an older gentleman who would push his lawn mower down to the service station so they could start it. There was nothing wrong with the mower, Kearin said; the guy just couldn't start it on his own.
Another customer regularly stopped by to put a couple of dollars' worth of gas in the tank, thinking his gas gauge didn't work.
Mike Kearin said it turned out the gentleman never burned enough gas to move the gauge off full.
Then there was the lady who pulled in and asked the Kearins to check her gas gauge because she couldn't see it.
Over the years, they said, a bad day has been rare.
"We had a bad day in '76," Mike Kearin said with a smile, adding that they don't talk about it. "You gotta look on the bright side."
"It makes a difference when you're doing something you want to do," Denny Kearin said.
Times have changed, though. In 1973, Denny Kearin said, service stations were on every street corner and today they're more of a rarity.
Mike Kearin said vehicles today don't require as much maintenance and tires last longer, but issues can still be difficult to find.
At 65 years old, Denny Kearin is eyeing retirement. With seven years before retirement, Mike Kearin said that he'll be looking for a job.
Working 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. six days a week, Mike Kearin said, the two always said they worked half-days since they worked 12 out of 24 hours.
"I'm going to see if I can find a job where I can work a quarter of a day," he said.
Although they've served the Madison area for nearly 40 years, the brothers say that closing their business isn't a big thing.
"We're just going to get on the next stage," Denny Kearin said.
"One day we're just going to close the doors for good," Mike Kearin said.
Being their own bosses, Denny Kearin said, one advantage is that they've controlled their own destiny.
"We've had some tremendous help over the years," he said.
"It seems like those 39 years went pretty fast," Mike Kearin said.
©Madison Daily Leader 2013