Local News

Longtime Service Station May Be Run Over by Land Sale

Posted December 20, 2006 6:33 p.m. EST

— After decades of tire checks, oil changes and inspections, Walker's BP Service Station may be replaced by a Walgreens drugstore.

The place opened as a Gulf station in 1956. A decade later, it moved to what is now Franklin Street and Estes Drive.

"I think this is the last spot in Orange County, and maybe on the face of the Earth, were you can drive into a service station and get honest to goodness service!" explained Jim Lea, a regular customer.

Owners David Walker and Eddie Crain have leased the property for 40 years. Recently, though, the landowner got a $3 million offer for the site from a company that wants to build a Walgreens there.

Since word got out, Mayor Kevin Foye and other town leaders have been bombarded by e-mail from concerned citizens.

Lea is one of them.

"We've dumped on the mayor's e-mail box as often as we can," he said. "This is not just a gas station. It's a service station. It's a 50-year tradition. It's something we need to work hard to preserve."

Help is unlikely to come from Town Hall, however. Town leaders say they cannot regulate to whom landowners choose to sell their property. The only thing that may stand in the way is an unforeseen zoning or design issue.

Walker and Crain both wish they could buy the property, but say they cannot afford it.

Over the years, the pair has worked overtime to build up a loyal customer base.

"We've got customers who call us at home at 10 o'clock at night. They've got a problem or a question," said Walker.  "I give them my home number just in case."

"They call and ask advice about something around the house," echoed Crain. "It doesn't have to have anything to do with cars. You feel like they're your friend."

Customers have decades worth of memories stored up.

Ryan Brigman remembers how he sent an old girlfriend to Walkers: "She said, 'What do I do? Where do I go?' So, I told her to come to Walker's and they took care of her just like that."

Even if the town approves the plans, it could be some time before Walker's is forced to shut down.

Still, that's little comfort to owners and workers who've called the place home for decades.

"I know it's only business, but I feel a bit cheated," explained Crain. "This is the only thing I've ever known."

Walker's is a tradition that may be enjoying it's last ride.