For Cullen Holyoak, the dream of operating his own service station popped into his head when he was still a kid.
“My father ran a service station when I was growing up,” Holyoak recalled, “and I always wanted a business like his. When I ‘made my move’ to ownership in 1959 (six years before becoming a U-Haul Dealer), I was only 20 years old, and with Texaco, you had to be at least 21.”
However, this dreamer had an “angel” in the gasoline company’s workforce who was able to pull some strings, and Holyoak was in business a year before anyone thought he would be. Now, Cullen’s Rentals and U-Haul Dealership is celebrating 50 years as a partner with U-Haul.
Holyoak got out of the service station business in 2000, though he continues to appreciate the association he has with U-Haul. In looking back over the past half-century, he remembers valleys and peaks, though more of the latter than the former.
“U-Haul definitely has been good to me,” he affirmed.
Changes for the better
“One of the biggest changes we experienced came with lighting hookups,” he declared. “Like many—if not all—dealers at the time, we used safety pins to connect the car and trailer wires. And then we covered the connection with tape to protect it from the elements.
“A lot of things are so much better with U-Haul today,” Holyoak affirmed, “and not just in lighting hookups. Our trucks are running much better. We’re not having as many breakdowns as we used to have in the old days. Another change for the good is that trailers now have sealed wheel bearings that require less maintenance, whereas the bearings on older trailers would often burn out.”
Family pitching in
Holyoak’s sons Kent and Russell and his grandson Colton Hunter helped out at the dealership over the years, though they’ve now moved on to other endeavors.
“I was hoping that Colton would take over the U-Haul business,” Holyoak said, “but I ‘lost him’ to another line of work.”
When Colton “went over,” however, it was only as far as next door, where he opened a battery exchange with his uncle—Holyoak’s son-in-law—so Colton remains close at hand to look in on his grandfather if necessary.
But whether or not Holyoak’s sons or grandson make it back into the U-Haul fold, the dealer has other family members he can depend on, including 28 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
“And I’m sure I got some use out of them over the years,” Holyoak quipped.
Goals yes; hobbies no
Holyoak was quick to credit his U-Haul Dealership as being a great financial help to him over the five decades he’s been in business.
“I’ve used what I’ve earned through U-Haul to invest in my retirement,” he explained. “At one time I was buying homes, and I have to give U-Haul credit for that. Without my U-Haul income, I would have remained just a gas station operator for a long time. It would have been much harder to get ahead.”
At 76, Holyoak has no plans to retire … nor has he picked up any hobbies along the way, though he does enjoy what could be called the best of all possible worlds.
“Fact is,” he admitted, “I never learned ‘how to play.’ But what I’ve always enjoyed is hauling firewood and going to my mountain cabin. It’s just 15 miles away from the dealership—12 miles up the canyon—and 20 degrees cooler in the summer. And that’s another great thing about my association with U-Haul: What helped me get into that cabin was the extra money the dealership brought in.”
Definite dealer “do’s”
“Providing good customer service is one of the most important aspects of being a U-Haul Dealer,” Holyoak emphasized. “In my case, as one example, I always try to wash every truck and trailer before I rent them out. Even in winter, in icy conditions,” he added, “I’ll take equipment to a car wash. Customers really appreciate sparkling equipment.”
Holyoak stressed that successful U-Haul Dealers must focus on providing excellent customer service and being flexible with people when it comes to the dealership’s hours of operation.
“Though I may be ‘closed’ on holidays like Memorial Day, I’ll come down to the dealership to work with a customer who needs me,” he noted. “Helping out may mean coming here at night. But that doesn’t matter. I’ll do whatever it takes to help a U-Haul customer.”
Is there a U-Haul Dealer in your area who has been around for a long time? Tell us about them in the comments section below.