I recently stopped at my favorite neighborhood auto-shop/full-service garage/gas station. It’s the good old Sinclair, just a skip east of Whole Foods on Grand Avenue. Randy, the manager, who our family has known for almost two decades, is one of the most decent and honest car guys in the galaxy (e.g., commonly uttered as I pick up my car from a service call: “Randy, this can’t be right. We must owe you more.”).

Dr. Carol Bruess

So there I was again, paying my too-tiny bill for what I was confident was going to be a “you need a new transmission” visit. Instead, the total was $28.93. I then burst out my most burning question, one I had been waiting to ask for the past few weeks: “Randy, a friend and colleague just told me something absolutely crazy. Surely, it can’t be true!”

Randy is quite the opposite of me, the highly expressive, always-adrenaline-rushing, constantly positively emoting type. He waits without facial expression for my question; I know he’s amused, although his subdued yet welcoming personality doesn’t reveal so much as a quiver of curiosity.

“Is it true we can use our St. Thomas eXpress Cards here?! To buy gas even? How could I not have known this for the past 14 years?!”

“Yep,” Randy assured me with his usual slight, understated half-grin.

Randy

Randy

How did I not know? I mentally beat up my savvy-shopper self. Retirement some day might have been a reality if I had known, doing all of my gas filling with a sweet 10 percent bonus by using my eXpress Card.

And it gets even better, as those of you who already have discovered this little gem on Grand Avenue know. The Sinclair at 1745 Grand is one of those places right out of a small, hometown, idyllic scene from 1975. You pull up to the fueling station, your car glides over the black hose and you hear in the distance – more clearly if it’s window-down season – the familiar ding-ding call to the attendant. Then what happens is what I recall vividly seeing as my 7-year old eyes peered just barely over the back passenger door of our 1977 panel-sided Chevy station wagon: A guy in blue with a stitched-on name patch comes out and, with just word or two exchanged, hooks you up with the fuel of your choice. “And your windows washed?” Hey, why not!

What? Who does that anymore?

Randy, Dan and the awesome staff at the Sinclair on Grand and Wheeler, that’s who. … and you just hand over your UST ID. The nice young man will return while you sit in your car feeling a bit lazy and embarrassed because this seems like a service for the rich and famous. I’m neither and yet I get full-service at a self-service price – plus that 10 percent bonus.

Is the St. Thomas neighborhood too good to be true? It’s not. This time, thanks goes to Randy and the gang at Sinclair.

 

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