LEWISTON — George Gendron got the news last week that his gasoline tanks at Gendron’s U Save weren’t state-compliant anymore. New tanks would take more investment than it would be worth for the bottom line.

So he’s made the tough call to close his gas station at the foot of the Exit 80 turnpike ramp and expand Gendron’s Seafood there instead.

It’s bittersweet and, maybe surprisingly for a gas station, sentimental. George Gendron leased his first station 41 years ago after getting in the business as a kid, working at his dad’s stations. His father, Dolard “Del” Gendron, would call to him on the way out the door in the morning, “OK, George, after school, you’ve got to come to work!”

“All of a sudden, when you’re told that you’re out of compliance, it is a shock,” George Gendron said. “When I put the tanks in, they were supposed to be the best of the best, but they didn’t prove to be the best of the best; the company that manufactured those went out of business about 15 years ago.”

They were flagged during an annual state inspection Oct. 7, and now, over the next eight months, they’ll come out. Saturday will be the station’s last day.

His father, Del Gendron, got his start working for his own dad, Joe, in the 1930s at what was known as Jimmy’s No. 9 gas station at 520 Lisbon St. Back then, gas was 12 cents a gallon, there were four stations within a quarter-mile of each other downtown and they were all hopping. Joe Gendron sold tires and batteries on a payment plan to mill workers for 50 cents a week.

“Customers were like relatives. They were friendly, you knew them by their first name,” said Del Gendron, turning 89 next week. Drivers had their service station, and that’s the one they stuck by for oil changes, antifreeze top-offs and the like. “They all did well. In them days, it didn’t take much to do well anyways — you sold 600, 700 gallons in a day. That was a lot of gas.”

The family has spent 80 years in the business and at one point owned as many as four gas stations here. This week’s sudden closure leaves just one, Mike Gendron’s Coast to Coast station at 990 Lisbon St.

“It’s a different game,” said Mike, Del’s son and George’s brother. “It’s interesting. I find it very rewarding. It’s a challenge because there’s so much competition with the big boys.”

Del Gendron said he and four brothers all worked for his father when they were young, much like his kids did later.

“When my father died at 53 in ’53, being the oldest, my mother put me in charge of the two stations,” he said. “(His brothers) all lost interest and I stuck to it.”

Del Gendron was also entrepreneurial, also much like his kids later, buying and developing other properties and creating a number of side businesses.

Members of the family own land around Exit 80 and 100-plus properties in the area. Del, married to his wife, Priscilla, for 68 years, is still buying and selling real estate. He spends Saturdays at the family gravel pit, cleaning up piles with an excavator; little dog Holly at his side.

“This is what my father always told me, ‘Family is the most important,'” he said. “I always felt the same way.”

George Gendron started Gendron’s Seafood 25 years ago out of one side of his gas station as a way to generate more revenue and now ships lobsters all over the country.

“It started with selling 500 pounds a week,” he said. “Now I sell anywhere from 4,000 to 8,000 pounds a week, depending on the holiday.”

He’s using the sudden change as a nudge to expand that business, adding fresh fish, mussels and other seafood to the lobsters and clams.

“I’ll be reinventing myself, so to speak,” he said.

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