Paul Schlichting recalls a time when there were seven service stations in the town of Garrison, North Dakota. Today, there are only two.
On the town’s Main Street, where three stations once stood, there are now none. “I think with all of the regulations, the updates the state requires you to do, it has become too expensive for a lot of mom-and-pop shops to stay open,” Schlichting said. “We have made the commitment to be here for our community, for our patrons.”
Schlichting is the General Manager of Farmers Union Oil of Garrison, one of the two remaining service stations in Garrison. Farmers Union Oil of Garrison was founded in 1930, when a group of local residents went door-to-door soliciting funds to open a station store. In the 90 years since, that little station has grown to be a pillar of the Garrison community, with services expanding to include tire sales, auto repairs, and bulk fuel delivery.
And while other small stations around the region have been forced to close, Farmers Union Oil of Garrison is stronger than ever.
“Last year was the first time in our coop’s history that we went over a million gallons of propane,” Schlichting said. “So that was pretty big for us!”
For Schlichting, Farmers Union Oil of Garrison’s success can be attributed to four factors: his employees, support from the community, a desire to continuously grow and improve, and the reliable services they receive from RTC.
“Garrison is a unique community. We all support each other very well. We know that we have the support of the citizens of Garrison, plus the surrounding rural communities,” Schlichting said. “And there’s no other service like Reservation Telephone offers.”
Giving Back to the Community
Schlichting has been with Farmers Union Oil of Garrison for over 30 years, starting in the shop in 1984 and moving up to General Manager in 1996. In that time, he has seen the station undergo several smaller remodeling projects—replacing pumps, adding a community room—but never a complete renovation.
Last year, he decided it was time for a change.
“We just wrapped up a major renovation here in May 2020,” Schlichting said. “It was just another way of giving back to our community, giving back to our patrons.”
Farmers Union Oil of Garrison invested over $750,000 to make improvements to the convenience store, including demolishing the unused upstairs space, lifting the ceilings to 14 feet, building a new cashiers’ counter, replacing all lighting and ceiling tile, and installing new furnace and air conditioning units.
But the improvements are not limited to the inside of the store. Farmers Union Oil of Garrison has added a brand new touchless car wash, expanded the canopy and equipped it with Halo Image lighting for increased safety, and doubled the number of fuel pumps from three to six—all to create a better experience for their customers.
“We can see it paying off already with the number of people coming into the station,” Schlichting said. “Folks would come to get gas but see that there were six people waiting in line, and they’d say, ‘I’m not going to wait.’ Now we can have twelve people filling at one time.”
An Added Layer of Security
While the appearance of Farmers Union Oil of Garrison has changed drastically, one thing remains the same: the quality of service the station receives from RTC.
“The service is probably the best you can get in Garrison,” Schlichting said. “When we have any troubles, we make one phone call and they are here within an hour—usually less.”
For as long as Schlichting can remember, Farmers Union Oil of Garrison has received internet, telephone, and television services from RTC. This spring, the station added additional cameras to their security system, including cameras in both the convenience store and the new car wash.
With this new system, Schlichting can access footage from all of the station’s cameras right on his mobile device.
“I can look on my phone, whether I am at home or out of town and I want to see what things are looking like at the station,” Schlichting said. “I can see whether it’s snowing or if it’s raining, or I can see how busy it is. It’s an added layer of security.”
The additional cameras provide peace of mind for Schlichting, his employees, and his customers. And if any of the cameras go down, he knows exactly who to call.
“I know a gentleman, he’s got cameras from another company. And if the camera goes down, it’s like, ‘Good luck,’” Schlichting said. “I don’t have that problem with RTC. If there’s a problem, they are here to fix it.”
Co-ops Supporting Co-ops
As two local cooperatives, RTC and Farmers Union Oil of Garrison have a unique relationship. They live in the same community, work in the same community, and have many of the same customers. But most importantly, they have the same dedication to providing the best possible services for those customers.
Just as Schlichting and his team continue to update their station to improve their customers’ experience, RTC continues to offer new products and services to meet customers’ ever-growing technology needs.
“There is something about a co-op supporting another co-op. They are always changing, they are always getting better,” Schlichting said. “I always tell RTC, ‘If there’s anything new and better that you guys are offering, bring it here. Let’s make everything as fast as it can be.’ They do a good job of bringing new stuff to us and offering us better service, faster service, that helps our customers.”
RTC is proud to support local businesses like Farmers Union Oil of Garrison. To discover how RTC can help you better serve your customers, visit RTC.coop or call 701-862-3115 today.