I had my first “official” job when I was 14. I befriended a guy at school named Rich, who was in the next grade up. I have no idea how we became good friends because we couldn’t have been more opposite. I was focused on academics and video games, and he was into metal shop, auto racing, and guns. Nevertheless, we became friends, and he eventually moved in with us as my foster brother.
Rich worked at an automotive repair shop called Kruse Automotive. The owner, Jim Kruse, used to work at Mort’s Wayside Garage down the street on Lima Road and decided to venture out and open his own shop. His primary business was the repair shop, but he also had four gas pumps installed out front branded as a Marathon gas station.
This was the early 90s when gas was pretty cheap — about $.84 per gallon for regular unleaded. Jim liked to sell regular unleaded gasoline for a penny or two below his cost. He would lose money on gas, but this technique is known as a loss leader. Grocery stores do the same thing when they offer a sale on a popular item to get you in the door to buy other stuff. Jim used low gas prices to get people to stop for a fill-up and ask about car service and maintenance, which were his bread and butter.
This strategy must have worked because the shop became very busy. Initially, there was no dedicated employee for the cash register. Whoever worked the desk for the repair shop (or the nearest mechanic) would hop over and handle any gas customers as needed. The gas business became so busy that Jim needed to hire a gas attendant, especially evenings and weekends.
Rich told me about the job opening, and I said it sounded like a cool part-time job. Kruse Automotive was about 20 minutes from my house, and I didn’t have my driver’s license yet. I told Rich he would be my main mode of transportation until I got my license, and he said that was fine. He didn’t even ask for a cut of my pay.
Rich warned me about one of the mechanics named Gary whose nickname was “The Claw.” Apparently, his initiation of new employees involved ripping off one of their shirt pockets and hanging them up by his toolbox as souvenirs. I didn’t have to wear a uniform like the mechanics, so I was spared from furnishing “The Claw” with another bounty.