As he gets ready to shut down the mechanical bays at Tusket Ultra Mart, Guy Surette – the business’s owner/manager – says he’s proud of how the business not only has endured but has grown.
While the bays are closing, Tusket Ultra Mart’s convenience store and gas pumps will remain open. Surette will stay on to manage this part of the operation until March 31, 2020.
In an interview, Surette had a chance to reflect a bit on the business’s history and his 45-year career.
“It’s humbling to have started where I did with one person working with me,” he recalled, and “now having over 20 employees. That’s how much the business has grown over the years.”
Initially, they were located on another site in Tusket, on Route 3. Highway 103 was still under construction at the time. This was 1974, Surette recalled.
The opening of the new section of highway meant a reduction in traffic on Route 3 and prompted the business to relocate to its present site just off the 103, where it has been since 1977.
“When I started at the old place, gas was 64 cents a gallon,” Surette said. “Cigarettes were 38 cents a pack ... Speedometers then were in miles per hour ... We used to keep (about) 10 sizes of tires. Now, with the different vehicles on the road, I have over 150 sizes that I keep in stock.”
The business started as a Texaco station. In 1994 it became an Ultramar.
And in four-and-a-half decades, the business never missed a day, Surette said, despite some major challenges, including White Juan, the massive blizzard that hit the area in 2004. Another year, Surette said, through a major prolonged power outage, the business ran daily, albeit on a reduced schedule.
Over the years, Surette figures they provided part-time employment to about 400 people, notably high school and university students.
Surette wasn’t ready to retire when he turned 65, but now, at 67, he said, it’s time. It also worked out better this way, given the age of some of his colleagues.
“There’s two or three of the staff that are reaching retirement age,” he said.
The bay work will be done by the end of November, he said.
“We will probably do a few things the first week of December,” he said. “Some of the guys are staying just to tie up a few loose ends ... but basically no more appointments.”
Things will stay the same as far as the office staff and convenience store are concerned, he said.
Surette has mixed emotions, saying he will especially miss the staff and customers. Once the bays are closed, he said, he likely will “back off a bit” and come in maybe three times a week until March 31.
Surette has long been involved in the community. He is a municipal councillor for one thing and also is involved in his local parish council. (He also will continue to clear snow-filled driveways during the winter.)
As for the chapter in his life that’s closing, he said, “It’s sad to see it come to a finish, but you move on with your life. I’ll be home more. My wife is happy about that.”