Mallek's is atypical because it also still does repairs. That aspect of the industry has changed too. "Cars are incredibly different now, you need much more equipment, and we are not state of the art on some things ... But I think there's still a need for the basics, the suspension, the exhaust, the steering, the brakes, all of that stuff. That's frankly what keeps us going."
One big change since 1941 is that most stations today are owned by a major oil company and leased by the people who manage them. "That's my big problem right now and the reason why I feel that you don't see any small independents any more," Mendler says. "For an independent like ourselves it's almost impossible, with all of the fees (and this is all gas I'm talking about, not mechanical, although there is some of that), the licensing, the tank inspections, the testing, the insurance--it's unbelievable. Every year it seems like the state, especially, throws another fee of some sort. And it's not just a couple thousand dollars. It's tens of thousands of dollars. If you're leasing, then it's the oil company's responsibility to pay those fees."
Mendler, who is nearly seventy, still comes in five days a week at 4:30 a.m. and opens the station by six. He says he'd like to find somebody that would be willing to buy Mallek's and continue to run it as it is. "But I just don't think that's going to happen--unless it was somebody that had enough wherewithal financially so that they could see, 'Well, maybe if we do reconfigure the island so we can generate more gas income, and maybe we'll put in a little party store ...' I'm afraid no one is going to say, 'Yeah, I want to just continue on the way it is.'"