LA GRANGE, Ga.—Hearing the familiar ding, the attendant of a small-town service station heads out to greet the customer at the driver’s-side window.
“Afternoon, Mrs. Thompson,” he says. “The usual? Fill ’er up with premium?”
Once the gasoline is flowing, he proceeds to check tire pressures, wash the windows and check the oil.
“Nice day today, isn’t it?” he asks the customer, who stops by for a fill-up every Tuesday. “How’s Mr. Thompson doing?”
Sounds like a scene from your childhood, or an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show,” doesn’t it? Well, this isn’t a flashback scene from the good ol’ days. This happens every day at Woody’s Service Center and U-Haul Dealership, one of the rare gas stations that still offer full-service.
This full-service, caring mentality is engrained in every facet of this U-Haul Dealership all the way down to the warm smiles on the faces of Wiley Woody, his son, Greg, and his grandson, Levi. Anyone who stops by Woody’s Service Center is sure to leave with that same infectious grin.
A different way of living
Wiley started working in the service station industry in 1963 after doing a few odd jobs and serving four years in the U.S. Air Force. After renting and operating a service station for several years, he settled on his current location in 1970.
“I don’t recall the details, but a few months after I took over this location, a U-Haul field man came by and talked about setting up a U-Haul Dealership,” Wiley mentioned. “There was only one U-Haul Dealership in La Grange at the time, so I became the second.”
When Greg was 13 years old, he began helping out at the service station doing odd jobs: sweeping, mopping and pumping gas. At the time, full-service stations were the norm and self-service was almost unheard of. Gradually, that changed and self-service gas stations started popping up on almost every corner in the 1980s. Wiley and Greg, who is also a volunteer firefighter in town, talked about giving up on full service, but the idea just didn’t sit well with them.
“We decided to keep the inside gas pumps full service,” Wiley asserted. “We kept it because there was a need for it. We have older customers or people who don’t want to get out and have their clothes smell like gas. About 50 percent of our customers use the full-service option.”
“It offers people a choice, especially if it’s rainy or cold,” Greg volunteered. “Nowadays, a lot of people just want to get out, pump their gas and be on their way. But some people still like to come in, get their car serviced and take a few minutes to talk. We enjoy getting to know our customers.”
Mike Moncus has been coming to Woody’s Service Center for more than 40 years not just because he trusts them with his vehicle, but he also enjoys spending time shooting the breeze.
“They still provide the service that used to be provided 40 years ago—which, for me, is a nice reminder of a simpler way of life,” Moncus asserted. “They really go out of their way to take care of their customers. A while back, my wife and I were headed to Orlando. We were about 30 miles away and we had a tire blow out. I called them, and in less than an hour they were there with a tire and we were back on the road. Not many people offer that kind of service anymore.”
Full service with a smile
Woody’s Service Center and U-Haul Dealership is full of old-time values and Southern charm. Any customer who stops by for a full-service refill gets the extra attention that you’d expect from Goober or Gomer in Mayberry—hilarious antics included.
“Full service is all about the personal touch,” Wiley declared. “We remember their name, clean their windshield and give treats to the little ones in the car. We also like to pay compliments to the ladies who stop in,” Wiley added. “I think you can pay a compliment without it being a flirtatious thing.”
As the old saying goes, behind every successful man is a woman rolling her eyes. Joking aside, Wiley and his wife, Myrna, have been happily married since 1955. And, she’s been helping with the end-of-the-month books for as long as Wiley can remember.
“Wiley is a ladies’ man, but he is one lady’s man,” joked Tony Fretwell, Marketing Company President of U-Haul Company of Southern Georgia. “The fact that he still offers full-service is unique in today’s culture. I think that is just another example of the level of service he provides to all his customers. It hasn’t changed in all the years he’s been in business. He still provides that personalized service that people really love.”
Keeping the tradition alive
While Wiley and Greg have been actively operating this service station and U-Haul Dealership for more than 40 years, Greg’s son, Levi, now 21 years old, has been soaking up these traditional values.
“I started working at the station when I was 13, like my dad,” Levi remembered. “I’ve learned how to treat people by watching both of them. The way they pay compliments to the ladies and joke with the kids … I was just raised thinking that’s the right thing to do. You treat people how you want to be treated. If you’re respectful, they’ll come back to you.”
Coming from a full-service way of doing business, the Woody family has proven themselves to be exceptional U-Haul Dealers for the last 40-plus years. Frequently a Top 100 Dealership, this family personifies the values that founded our Company.
“I hope to pass on the same lessons to my son that my dad taught me,” Greg proclaimed. “I have so many people compliment me on Levi’s manners and how respectful he is. He’s great with our customers and they really enjoy seeing him when they come in. And that’s what we are all about—treating people with respect and offering quality service that they want to come back for. We all have a big smile around here, and we want to share it and pass it on to others.”
Do you remember full-service gas stations? Would you rather have full service at a gas station, or do you prefer the DIY method?