Home News and Features Business Bob’s Sunoco Closes, Lays Off Long-Time Employees

Bob’s Sunoco Closes, Lays Off Long-Time Employees

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From left, Tom Vivian, Bernie Brown, George Hoyt, and David Fowler. Photo by John Lazenby.
Bob’s Sunoco in Montpelier has closed its doors, putting five people out of work and ending an era for the many local customers who had their cars worked on at the gas station or enjoyed having someone pump gas for them. 

The station, in operation under that name since Bob Rushford took over in the 1970s, will be opened up again for unstaffed, self-service fueling on Nov. 8, according to Mike Behn, president of the Sandri Company of Greenfield, Mass., which owns the building. Sandri, a company founded by Barre native A.R. Sandri in 1930, is looking for someone new to lease and operate the station (interested parties can contact Scott at 802-772-5597).

The current lessee is KSRC Enterprises, according to Kevin Spillane of that company, which has other stations in Chittenden County. Asked why they were closing Bob’s, he was not specific but said “the time has come.” Spillane said the staff at the station are “great people who have been there a long time.”

The longest-serving employee, Bernie Brown of Plainfield, worked at Bob’s for 46 years and, according to Behn, is one of the best mechanics he knows. Brown said a lot of his customers have become friends, and that he has been touched by how many of them have stopped by to say goodbye to him and to other staff in recent days.

The other full-time employees were Tom Vivian, who had been there 36 years; David Fowler, 12 years; and George Hoyt, four years. Part-time pump operator Robert Knight had been with Bob’s for about eight years. Together, the staff posted a notice thanking customers and saying it had been “an absolute pleasure” to “serve our community.”

At one time the station operated a U-Haul franchise, a Hertz car rental business, and had as many as 10 tow trucks, in addition to pumping gas and repairing cars, Brown said. He said the repair business has been good recently, which Behn said was the case in much of the auto-service industry during the pandemic. But Behn said one long-term challenge for stations like Bob’s is that car dealers are competing hard for the same repair business.

If Sandri finds someone to lease the property, a full-service garage could potentially open up on the site again, perhaps even with some of the same staff, Behn said. In the short term, however, local motorists are likely to have an even harder time than usual getting an appointment to put on their winter tires this year.

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