Since 1961, DIY customers in Battle Creek, Mich., have been coming to Jim Hazel’s Citgo and U-Haul Dealership for their moving equipment needs. After more than 55 years of serving the community, the location recently closed its doors.
“It was time to start the next chapter in my life and to let my mom enjoy her retirement,” states Jim Hazel III, the third-generation owner of the business. “I got an IT degree from Western Michigan University and I’m starting a new career in that field.”
The decision to close the business at the end of October wasn’t one that Hazel and his family came to lightly. “It’s very bittersweet,” he says. “It’s the end of an era, for sure. But at the same time, we’ll no longer have to worry about payroll and covering shifts for a business that’s open seven days a week.”
Service Station Opened in 1951
Hazel’s father and grandfather ― Jim Hazel Jr. and Sr., respectively ― opened their first service station station in 1951. That was just six years after U-Haul was founded. They added U-Haul truck and trailer sharing to the business 10 years later and had been a U-Haul neighborhood dealer ever since.
Hazel Sr. passed away in 1978, and Hazel Jr. died in 2013. Hazel III had been running the place for the past several years. He grew up around the family business, so it was something he was comfortable doing.
“I started working there when I was 13,” Hazel III states. “Growing up, I didn’t really know anything else. I worked there through high school and thought 40 hours was part time, which is actually true when you run your own business. My dad and grandpa could always outwork me, though!
“The first thing I hooked up in 1977 was a U-Haul trailer with a clamp-on hitch,” he continues. “And the last piece of U-Haul equipment I rented also was a trailer. So it felt like a bookend 40 years later.”
Now that he has had some time to step back and reflect on a three-generation family business that served U-Haul customers for more than 56 years, Hazel III has many fond memories.
“U-Haul was a very good, steady source of income for us,” Hazel III notes. “It taught me how to have grace under pressure, because you’re dealing with people who are moving, which is one of the most stressful things they’ll do in their lives.
“We lived and breathed U-Haul. People in Battle Creek knew that Jim Hazel was U-Haul. Many people have used U-Haul trucks and trailers to leave Michigan when times were really bad. And now a lot of them are coming back, which is nice to see. U-Haul has been a part of all that, and so have we.”
Although Jim Hazel’s Citgo and U-Haul Dealership has closed up shop, there are plenty of U-Haul dealers in and around Battle Creek. Find one close to you at uhaul.com/locations.
Interested in becoming a U-Haul neighborhood dealer and meeting your community’s moving needs? Visit uhaul.com/dealer to learn more.