South End business icon closing on Saturday

LACONIA — For as long as most people can remember, the Foley Oil Company's gas station has been across the street from Wyatt Park on the "V" corner at Route 106 and Garfield Street in the city's South End.

This Saturday, said Foley Oil Company President Jeff Pierson, the two-pump, full-service station will close because the environmental upgrades required to keep it open are too costly.

He said with no room on the corner to expand and build a store, there isn't enough profit in a gallon of gas to justify what could be as much as $100,000 in tank and pump upgrades that are mandatory for all gas stations by 2015.

"It's too bad," he said. "We have a lot of loyal customers."

Pierson emphasized that Foley Oil Company itself isn't going anywhere — they're just closing this one gas station. He said the station complies with all environmental regulations now but won't in 2015 when the new regulations take effect.

"We'll continue to operate our larger gas stations with stores in Bristol and Enfield."
He said those stations were upgraded and meet 2015 compliance standards.

At one point, said Pierson, he thought about opening a store along with the gas station but said he didn't have enough parking.

Pierson was nostalgic about the gas station though. "My wife wants to be the last person who fills up her gas tank," he said.

He said the gas station has been a part of his wife's, Katie "Foley" Pierson's life since she was a little girl. He said she told him when she was child she would go there and watch her grandfather and then her father pump gas and visit with the customers.

The pictures on walls of Foley Oil Company main offices — on the other side of South Main Street — show the history of Foley Oil and the gas station on the corner.

In one undated before Foley's opened, three grocers stand in the doorway of what used to be one of the old First National grocery stores. Stacked on either side of the doorway are sacks of flour with signs in the windows advertizing tomato catsup selling for the price of 2 for 25 cents, cans of pork and beans selling for 4 cans for 19 cents, and a loaf of sweet rye bread selling for 8 cents.

At some point, First National moved and the Foleys opened a gas station and automotive repair garage. Pierson said there is still a mechanic's bay in the building but the company uses it for storage.

The original Foley gas station is where Vista Supermarket is today and it sold Pan Am Gasoline — a company formed during WW I that was fueled by wartime gas demand and later by post-war automobile use. After a number of buyouts and scandals, what was left of Pan Am merged in the 1950s with Standard Oil of Indiana and became Amoco, which merged with BP in the 1990s.

Pierson said he didn't know what the Foley Oil Company was going to do with the property. He said the old tanks will be drained and the gas will either be brought to their bulk storage facility in Belmont or used in another Foley Oil gas station.

The tanks will be removed from the ground as is required by state and federal law but beyond that, he said the company hadn't made any decisions.