There’s two words to describe why there will be a closed sign on the door of Mercer's Service Centre on the Esplanade Oct. 16.
“Sometimes you have to take one for the team,” said Todd Mercer, grandson of the late Moose Mercer, who started the family business.
Mercer’s Service Centre is one of the many properties and businesses on the waterfront acquired by the province to make way for construction of the new Nova Scotia Community College, Marconi Campus.
Todd said it unfortunate their family has to close the centre but they are looking at this from a positive point of view, knowing in the bigger picture this is likely to create a huge economic impact for the area, a much bigger impact than their gas station could ever have done.
“We’re very excited over what the new Marconi campus will mean for Sydney,” he said.
“We feel it’s a great opportunity for Sydney and for the downtown businesses to grow and improve.”
"The Mercer family is looking forward to continue to serve our customers through the Mercer Fuels home heating business.” — Todd Mercer
The service station has been a staple in the community more than 30 years. If the land wasn’t needed for the community college, the business would not have been closing.
“Absolutely not,” Todd said.
The properties acquired by the province were either purchased or expropriated.
“We reached a deal,” Todd said.
The deal remains a private family matter. The Nova Scotia Joint Stocks lists the assesses the property value at $365,300.
However the Mercer legacy will continue. A year ago Todd took over as owner and general manager of Mercer Fuels Ltd. It's located on Brooklyn Street, a separate family business focusing on home heating delivery, that employs seven. The business was founded by his late grandfather Moose Mercer. Todd said he’s thankful to continue in an aspect of the family business to be able to stay in Cape Breton instead of going out west for work.
“We’re remaining and are as strong as ever,” he said.
"The Mercer family is looking forward to continue to serve our customers through the Mercer Fuels home heating business.”
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
The late Moose Mercer started his career in the oil business. Moose worked for Imperial Oil for 13 years.
In the early 1960s he decided to start his own business and used borrowed capital to get going. His first office was located in the back of his Sydney home. On Dec. 31, 1987, Moose purchased the service centre on the Esplanade from Benjamin Aulenback. At the time there was only 15-20 ft. of property behind the building.
“He filled a lot of the property in and made it bigger,” Todd said.
The company grew with the help of good friends and a strong family.
Over the decades, success brought about other venture for Moose, including Mercer Investments and partnerships in Plaza Ford, Northern Holdings and Nova Learning. In 2005, Moose was inducted into the Cape Breton Business Hall of Fame alongside Irving Schwartz.
Moose Mercer, died in November 2013. The Service Centre business is now owned by siblings David Mercer, Gary Mercer and Brenda Mercer.
The years with the family's service centre are filled with good memories for the family but obviously also for the customers as shown on the Mercer Fuels Facebook page.
“That’s all nice stuff for us to see. We’re pretty proud of our staff, how great they’ve been over the years. They’ve represented our family really well.”“There’s so many good comments about the people liking the staff and hanging out down there,” Todd said.
There are two full-time and three part-time employees. Todd said their last day will be Oct. 15.
“I think they are looking forward to the opportunity to go on to something new and exciting themselves," he said. "So that’s nice.”
There was a little party for the staff already but he wasn’t sure what would happen on their last day there, how it would be spent.
“I think we’re going to pump gas until it runs out,” he said, laughing.
On a serious note, he feels a lot of people will be sad to see it go but hopefully the bigger picture is more important.
Demolition day, the family will be there, he added. It’s not known when the demolition will take place but the closing date on the property is the end of October.
All three siblings — Brenda Mercer, David Mercer and Gary Mercer — have all been involved in the operations at Mercer's Service Centre over the years. Chatter about Marconi possibly moving to downtown Sydney was around years ago. However David never thought it would impact their property.
“I knew they had a bunch of locations, I never really thought here.”
However David said they feel it’s good Marconi is coming downtown, great for the downtown and it will bring a lot of people to the area.
“I think it’s great they chose this location,” he said. "It’s on the waterfront, along with the other properties. It should work out really well for Sydney.”
Gary said the property was never up for sale. However, he said it wasn’t a huge shock when the knock came at the door. It was a good fix for Marconi Campus to be on the waterfront, he said.
“There are not a whole of places left on the waterfront right now.”
“A lot of the customers are pretty sad because they got a lot of good service from the guys here."
Now with only days before closing the doors on this chapter of the Mercer family forever, he admitted there’s sort of a sadness in the air for them from the long-time staff to the customers coming in.
“A lot of the customers are pretty sad because they got a lot of good service from the guys here,” he said.
Gary said the staff would be washing windows, putting fluid in cars or air in tires, which doesn’t happen much at other gas stations anymore.
“Their service would be 100 per cent from the boys. You wouldn’t see David or Brenda or I down here,” he said.
“We offered full service at a self-serve price.”
Brenda is one of the family members who certainly has a lot of memories attached to the centre. She worked there for 15 years. One day someone asked her what it was like to work at the service centre.
“I said, ‘Anywhere between Trailer Park Boys and Corner Gas,” she said laughing.
The Mercer family rented the bays out to Garfield Carey, who ran his own business on the property more than 20 years. It was a good fit as any of their customers having issues could go there as well, she said.
“Anything anyone needed fixed, Gar was there for them."
Brenda said it was a family atmosphere, everyone working together.
“It’s sad,” she said. “I had a lot of good days here. There wasn’t a day I went to work that I regretted.”