Generations of motorists have filled their tanks with petrol or had their vehicles fixed by beloved Albert Park “local identity” Tony Franza.
And Mr Franza, 70, told the
Leader people had been coming in to give him gifts and cards to wish him well in his semi-retirement after nearly 40 years in business.
“It’s been really touching actually,” he said.
“I’m very sad to be leaving because I’ll miss the customer so much.
“I’ve got people coming to see me who used to come in as children with their parents — and now some of them have had children too.”
Long-time customer Tania Evans said she would miss the “local identity”.
“I’ve been going there for years and he’s just really sweet,” she said.
“He’s always been so helpful — there was a time when I forgot my wallet and he just said ‘don’t worry, come back later and pay’.
“The community will really miss him.”
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Mr Franza — who has travelled from Reservoir and Craigieburn to work at the Ferrars St station for the past four decades — said his Caltex store was one of the last to still pump people’s petrol for them and wash their windscreens.
The popular station was also ranked in the company’s top 10 franchises for cleanliness and customer service numerous times, earning Mr Franza several all-expenses-paid overseas trips.
But Mr Franza said he has never spent more than two weeks away from the business at any one time and he’s looking forward to more travel in his free time.
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He has already planned a trip to Cobram, a cruise through the top end of Australia and a month-long jaunt through Canada on the Rocky Mountaineer.
“That’s the nature of running a business, it’s hard to get away,” he said.
“We’re open 24 hours too so even when I’m not here I sometimes get those 3am calls to say there’s been an armed holdup or shots fired in the store.
“Thankfully none of the staff have ever been hurt but they’ve needed counselling — that’s certainly something I won’t miss about the place.”
Mr Franza will hang up the bowser for the final time today, with Caltex set to bring in new managers tomorrow.
But he will continue to work a few days a week at a service station in Glenroy.
“I plan to help out my business partner, who’s much young than me and has young children,” he said.
“He started with me when he was still a student so we’ve been working together a while.”