PITTSBURG, Kan. — After nearly a century at the corner of Quincy and Broadway, Malle Service & Tire will close its doors permanently on Friday.
“In June of 1924 my great-grandfather started Malle Service, I am the fourth generation,” owner Ed Malle wrote in a letter to his customers this week, which was addressed “Dear Friend.”
“It has been quite a run at this same location for 97 years and one month. My family has been a fixture in this town. The customer support has kept us here through good and bad times. I have seen generation after generation of families keeping our doors open, and that overwhelms me,” Malle wrote.
“I started full-time with the family business in December of 1979. If you are counting that is 41 years and 7 months.”
After all that time, Malle said in an interview Wednesday, he is looking forward to retirement — but saying goodbye won’t be easy.
“This has been a tough decision,” Malle said. “It’s going to be tough when I lock that door.”
When the Malle Service & Tire building at 1220 S. Broadway was built, Malle said, street cars still ran up and down Broadway. Other than going up for sale soon, it is unclear what will happen to the building itself going forward, though on the business side, Malle has made an effort to provide some continuity for his longtime customers.
“I’ve sold the tire business, oil change, battery and auto maintenance to Vietti Auto Body at the corner of 4th and Joplin,” he wrote in his letter this week. “Jeff Wood is the owner and a Pittsburg boy. I’ve known the Wood family for years.”
Malle employee Jacob Sanders will be going to work for Wood, while Shane Drenick, who currently works for Malle, will be pursuing other opportunities. Malle has also made sure that calls to the phone number for Malle Service & Tire will be redirected to Vietti Auto Body, so that customers who may not have heard his shop is closing will be taken care of.
Up until it shuts its doors this week, Malle Service & Tire will have been the oldest full-service gas station in the United States that has been owned by the same family and operated in the same location.
“We’re kind of the last of the Mohicans,” Malle said. “There’s not many places like this anywhere you go.”
Despite the challenges the business has faced and changes it has seen over the years, though, Malle said his reasons for shutting down are not financial.
“We’ve been busy as all get-out,” he said. “Last year wasn’t fun with the pandemic. That wasn’t entertaining at all, but every small mom and pop suffered, the whole country suffered.”
How busy Malle has continued to be at the shop as he’s gotten older, in fact, contributed to his decision to retire, he said.
“I can’t do it anymore. We’re busy and I can’t keep up,” he said. “I’m telling everybody, in the last year I’ve kind of been the Walmart greeter up here. I don’t do much in the shop anymore.”
Being able to have time to enjoy retirement, Malle said, was another factor to consider.
“I had one brother pass away at 63, one at 64,” he said. “I’m 65. I don’t want to die up here.”
After more than four decades running the family business, Malle said, he feels it’s the right time to get out.
“I’ve had people coming in here, you know, telling me they’re going to miss us, and that’s what I want to hear. I don’t want to be the guy that sticks around two or three years too long and people say, you know, ‘He should’ve retired two or three years ago,’” he said. “I wanted to go out on top, and I think we’re doing that.”
Despite the mixed feelings he has about shutting down his business, Malle said he appreciates the support he’s received from his customers and the community since announcing plans to close the shop.
“I’m proud of what we did here, very proud of what my family has accomplished. Everybody’s been telling me we’re a landmark,” he said. “I just figured it was a ma-and-pa organization that came to work every day.”