Bridport landmark closes its doors; Ray Boise ran Citgo station for 45 years
BRIDPORT — It’s Monday morning at Boise Citgo in Bridport, and it’s a beehive of activity.
But on this day, workers aren’t pulling ailing vehicles into the garage for tune-ups, oil changes or repairs.
They’re hauling out a variety of automotive equipment, including brake lathes, floor jacks, anvils and king-sized wrenches.
Some of the stuff hasn’t seen the light of day since the Gerald Ford administration, but it’s now getting pressure-sprayed and wiped down for an auction that was scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 30.
Everything must go, including the 4,800-square-foot building on 1 acre at the intersection of Routes 22A and 125.
Ray Boise, 78, has finally decided to retire after 45 years of pumping gas and fixing vehicles at his beloved, family-owned service station.
“I’m going to miss it, but I’m getting tired,” Boise said. “I haven’t had a vacation in 45 years.”
And he’s not taking that vacation until after the auctioneer’s gavel falls on the sale of the last tape measure, tire iron and fuel tank in his inventory. Boise wouldn’t chew the fat with this reporter until he had made the rounds on his property aboard his trusty scooter, expertly weaving in and out of work stations, making sure the final chores were being done to his specifications.
The scooter has allowed him to remain an active part of the operation as he has become more physically limited.
He took some time on Monday to gaze nostalgically in the rearview mirror at his relationship with the local service center. Boise, a lifelong Bridport resident, began leasing the property from Champlain Oil back in 1972. He had been working in construction with H.B. Hood, but wanted to run a business in his hometown. Boise could find his way around under the hoods of most vehicles, and his wife, Theresa, was up for the challenge of running the small convenience store they decided to add to the mix.
For the first two years, Ray and Theresa Boise worked at their new venture from around 6 a.m. to midnight, virtually year-round.
“Back then, he used to work on Christmas,” noted Ray’s son, Joey Boise, who grew up at the Citgo station. As a kid, Joey would help out around the place in small ways, handing tools to his dad and the handful of employees he would eventually add as the business became more prosperous. When he got old enough, Joey put in 10 years at his dad’s service center as a mechanic, repairing vehicles of all sizes and makes.
“Definitely, a piece of me is left here,” Joey said as he stood in the suddenly quiet convenience store, gazing at a wall display of grainy, black-and-white photos of Boise Citgo during its heyday.
Snapshots in time, with time now running out on a business that served legions of locals, farmers and travelers passing through the intersection of two of the county’s busiest roads.
That local and pass-through traffic brought prosperity to the Boise family during the 1980s and much of the 1990s. Ray tested new ventures at the station, including a deli and used car selection. And lest people think his talents were limited to diagnosing a worn head gasket or topping off an oil reservoir, Ray Boise earned a reputation for serving up what some are calling the best maple creemees in the county — and perhaps beyond.
“Turn your car around from whatever direction you’re driving in right now and order yourself a maple creemee from the very nice folks behind the counter,” reads an on-line testimonial from “Gerry P.” of Brooklyn, N.Y. “Then, go outside, take in the view, taste your creemee, and prepare to be transported to deliciously heavenly realms.”
Ray is coy about his creemee credentials, and don’t ask him for the recipe — unless you want to buy it from him. As stated earlier: Everything must go. And he wants that retirement nest egg to grow as big as possible.
“Everyone wants to know the secret,” Ray said through a mischievous grin. He will concede the syrup he uses comes from the Plouffe sugarworks in Bridport.
Ray’s role at his business evolved through the years. He relinquished the automotive repair role to Joey and others as vehicles became increasingly computerized. Later in his career, his primary domain became the convenience store. And king of the creemee machine.
Jerry Connors has been a customer at Boise Citgo since it opened in 1972. It’s been his go-to place for repair work and his daily cup of coffee, which has often included some local gossip at no extra charge.
“It’s handy, and the service has been good,” Connors said of the reasons for his loyalty.
He called Ray Boise “a nice guy. I’m going to miss him.”
It remains to be seen what will replace Boise Citgo. The land is zoned commercial in a highly visible part of town, so it could host another business — perhaps another in a growing number of filling station/mini-mart operations that have multiplied across the state. Ray said it’s tough for an independent service station owner to make a living these days — particularly on gas. He said he could make $25 cents per gallon off gas 40 years ago, a number that he said has declined to around 6 cents per gallon these days.
But Boise has no regrets. He thanked his many loyal customers, and Champlain Oil for selling him the property around 30 years ago and for being his fuel supplier throughout his 45-year run.
“No complaints,” Boise said.
Fortunately, Boise’s employees have pinned down new jobs — except of course for Ray, who on Thursday suddenly found himself somewhere other than his service station. He doesn’t have any big plans on the horizon, except for a trip his spouse Theresa wants to take to Florida.
“I like to work,” Boise said Monday, but then quickly added, “I can’t stay here forever.”
Asked how he might react to seeing the property liquidated at auction, he replied, “I’ll probably cry.”
And so might Joey.
“It’s bittersweet, but I know it’s necessary for a lot of reasons,” said Joey, who now has hands full with two other family businesses: Cyclewise and Midstate Towing.
“You put in a lot of hours, get attached to the place and get to know a lot of people,” Joey Boise added. “It will be a tough day.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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