It’s an end of an era
Gary Rochester is about to give the corner of Eighth Street and U.S. Highway 56 its first new look in more than 40 years.
Rochester officially closed his business, Gary's Service, Friday and is now preparing his shop to be torn down.
"It's in the process right now," Rochester said. "I am gutting the inside. Then I am going to tear the roof off. Then I will just hire someone to come in here and push it down and haul the concrete off."
The building that occupies the southeast corner of the intersection will be demolished in the near future.
After the building is demolished, Rochester hopes to sell the lot to allow a new business to take his place along the highway.
"I've been in business for 40-some years and I'm just ready to get out," Rochester said. "The old lot is probably worth as much as the building is, so that's the reason I am tearing up the building. Whoever is going to buy this is going to put a new building up."
Although he has owned that building for nearly 40 years, Rochester said he won't be sad to see it demolished. However, he will miss the people that frequented his shop.
"I will miss the people," Rochester said. "I've made a lot of good friends and met a lot of good customers. I will miss them. Otherwise I won't miss the job."
Loyal customers will miss Gary's Service.
"It was handy to run into Baldwin to get parts," Rex Hagerman said. "I also got my truck serviced and tires repaired at Gary's. I even bought fuel from him when he sold it. I am going to miss him."
His decided to close the shop, because he wanted to retire and move on in life at age 67.
"Oh yeah I am retiring," Rochester said. "I am old enough to retire. I've been at it a lot of years and now I am ready to move on and do different things."
Some of Rochester's friends were happy to see him retire.
"I've known him for a long time, probably 40 years," Stan Robinson said. "I would go up there in the mornings and drink coffee with him. I am glad to see him retire, he is old enough to."
Robinson also said Rochester is one of his few best friends and always will be.
"He's my best friend," Robinson said. "I don't think it, I know it. He is one of my best friends. We will still get coffee in the mornings together."
Most people view retirement as a time to relax, but not Rochester. He isn't sure what he will do during retirement, but he knows one thing is for certain; he will have the free time to do whatever he pleases.
"I am going to do whatever I want to," Rochester said. "I've got a lot of hobbies. I might get back into flying, because I used to fly. I just got so busy that I got away from the airplane. We do like to travel. I live outside of town on 15 acres and I've got a lot to do out there. I've got another farm out west and it keeps me pretty busy."
In 1959, Rochester moved to Baldwin. He then worked for Chester and Audrey McMillen for a few years before purchasing the business in 1968.
Since that time, Rochester has owned and operated the business. He has fixed tires, repaired automobiles, owned a car wash, sold farm fuel and sold automobile parts.
Changes have been a part of his business since he took over, but he has been planning this major change for many years.
"I am ready (to retire)," Rochester said. "I've been gradually fading it all out. I used to have a carwash up here and I phased it out. I was in the gasoline business where we hauled fuel to farmers.
"My wife worked in auto parts for 37 years and then we phased that out when she retired," Rochester said. "I was trying to sell the whole thing, but no one could come up with that much money. The last two years I kept the tire business and service area open and I was the only one working."
The biggest change he can remember has happened with technology. He has also seen Baldwin City grow along Highway 56.
"It's been a good business with a lot of good people," Rochester said. "Over the period of years, I've seen a lot of changes. Technology has really changed. I've also seen that (points toward development north of U.S. Highway 56) change. It used to be all farmland."
Now Rochester changes his life from local mechanic to retired businessman, who will enjoy his free time.
"I will really enjoy it," Rochester said. "I am looking forward to doing different things and relaxing, not having to come down here and worry about something."