National Small Business Week
Kessel's Conoco Station in Fairfield, Iowa
It was 1946 and World War II had recently come to an end. People were adjusting to life during a new era of peace. George Kessel was one of those people. He had served in the Army in Germany during World War II and returned home to Fairfield with plans to start the next phase of his life. He partnered with his father, Clarence Kessel, and rented the Conoco station that sits at the corner of 4th and West Burlington, one that has been there since the 20’s; the 1920’s. George was the mechanic and Clarence was their customer service guy.
In 1958 they erected a new building on the corner, a little further back from the street, and one that you’ll see when you drive by today. Clarence stayed with the business until 1974, leaving George to run things afterwards.
George married and had nine children, five boys and four girls. All of the boys spent time working at the station, some more than others. Steve, the fifth child, worked some hours when he was younger, and went full-time in 1985. He and his father worked together until 1991, when Steve bought the business.
Steve married Lori Keller in 1993, and they later had two children, Andrew and Makayla. Andrew worked in the station part-time but never developed an interest in taking over the family business. Makayla helped some with the books at home during that period as well.
In 1998, Steve hired Kent Worley who was fresh out of high school at the time but no stranger to being a mechanic. During those high school years, Kent built his own dragster, a 1972 Chevelle, which he raced at the Eddyville Speedway for a number of years. He and Steve have been taking care of business together now for twenty-two years.
In 2002 Steve replaced the canopy over the pumps and later the pumps were upgraded to more current technology. Steve will tell you the biggest changes in the business have been the technology used on cars. Fuel systems last longer now, requiring less adjustment. Roads are better and tires are as well, and they last longer too.
Steve can’t remember when they stopped providing full service at the pumps. He says with the small margins on gas now, it’s almost impossible to make any money on the fuel side of the business. However, he still keeps an eye out for his older customers when they pull up and if needed, you’ll see him out doing the nice thing; pumping their gas. He’s just that kind of guy.
Pictured from left to right: Kent Worley and Owner Steve Kessel
The U.S. Small Business Administration has postponed National Small Business Week; new dates will be announced soon. The Fairfield Area Chamber of Commerce would still like to highlight five Fairfield Area businesses this week in celebration of Small Business Week.