If anyone didn’t know better Friday by observing the activities at the Brannock Service Center, he or she might have thought it was 1965 – when motorists sat in their vehicles as an attendant pumped their gasoline and was checking the oil.
But no, a glance at the calendar revealed that it was actually 2021. And the scene of a man – Marty Brannock – providing such friendly customer service was very real and not a product of the imagination recalling the good old days gone by.
“I saw you over there cleaning the windshield and I was like, ‘people don’t do that anymore,'” customer Zack Blackmon Jr. told Brannock a few minutes later as they stood. in the long-standing West Lebanon Street business across from the Veterans Memorial Park. .
Brannock couldn’t think of another full-service gas station in Mount Airy that offers this service, claiming the closest one he knows is in Carroll County, Va. – a concept alien to a high generation only. self service.
And as of Monday, this community will no longer be bragging about the honor, due to the closure of Brannock’s Service Center Inc. on July 5, according to a letter sent to its customers.
“After 45 years in this place, retirement is near,” he says. “It has been a pleasure serving you and the Town of Mount Airy for so long.”
“I’m just ready to go,” Brannock, 66, said Friday of the retirement decision concerning him and his wife Donna. They have been married for almost 46 years and she worked in the Brannock Service Center office for about 23 of them. The late Buck Brannock, Marty’s father, founded the company.
However, some vestiges of the operation will survive after its gas station component fades into history.
Although the building itself is empty, longtime Brannock employee Jason Jarrell and his wife Robin will be opening the Brannock Alignment and Service Center at a store next to the gas station on July 19.
Plus, the fuel pumps will still work, but only by credit card, 24/7, with no friendly faces.
End of an era
The prospect had many customers expressing their sadness on Friday as they stopped to say goodbye to the Brannocks, who included more than a few hugs.
“I’m not going to cry,” said Nancy Caruthers, a longtime Westfield customer, whose emotions in this sense were still apparent as she and Marty hugged each other warmly.
We quickly got the idea on Friday that it was not just the service aspect itself that made the Brannock service center so attractive, but the personal touch it embodies.
“He’s wonderful with me,” Caruthers said of Marty Brannock while mentioning that she had sponsored the company since 1998.
“You have so many people who depend on you,” Blackmon told Brannock.
Among them is Deborah Cochran, former mayor of Mount Airy and longtime radio personality who lives near the station.
“My cars are over 20 years old and they’ve been servicing my cars for decades,” Cochran said of the Brannock’s team, praising “Marty’s positive attitude” as well as the thorough treatment at the pump.
“Everything from the inspections, the batteries, the tires, the brakes and gasoline – they even come to the house and collect the cars,” Cochran added. “We don’t know how many people they kept on the road, and I go to Winston-Salem ten months a year.”
Brannock said he has relied on a simple philosophy in his interactions with customers. “I have always tried to give people the best advice and the best value for money,” he said of various automotive issues.
It is a formula that has proven to be a success with people near and far.
“We all love him,” Blackmon said of Brannock.
Likewise, customers don’t want to see him go.
“It seems like everything is changing these days,” Cochran said. “When Marty and Donna told me they were retiring, I was in shock.”
“I have paid my dues”
There have been many transitions in the business world over the years and speaking with Marty Brannock it feels like at one point people want to escape the associated pressures and just enjoy life to the fullest.
The longtime station operator referred to his father to explain this.
“He was my buffer,” said Brannock, who could handle things whenever the son wanted to take a trip to the beach or attend a motorcycle rally.
“But when dad passed away 15 years ago, I carried the load – but I enjoyed that,” he said.
“I paid my dues and enjoyed everything I did.” Brannock says he’s ready for a new “adventure”.
David Beal, another former city official – who has served as both commissioner and police chief in Mount Airy, in addition to the Surry County court clerk – offered an optimistic view of the situation on Friday during a stop for gasoline.
“First of all, I think the Brannock family’s history in the gas station industry is exceptional,” said Beal.
He appeared to be reassured that there will be at least some semblance of commerce remaining due to the store next door that will operate as Brannock.
This will allow the couple’s presence to be intact at the West Lebanon Street site – at least symbolically, Beal believes.
“As far as I’m concerned, Donna and Marty will always be there.