I feel my Dad is looking down from heaven and is pleased to see the family business is still in the family
By Janet Martinez
When Frank and Ann Gajan with their two children, Carol and Robert made the long trek from Pennsylvania to San Francisco in 1956, they weren't expecting a permanent move. Frank accepted a temporary position his cousin found for him. They were in San Francisco for six months when Frank's sister decided to come for a visit. They decided that this was the perfect time to drive to Disneyland. At that time there was no Highway 1 (Coast Highway), so their trip took them through Watsonville and Salinas Road. Frank spotted a "For Sale" sign next to a gas station/small market and decided to stop. He spoke with the owners for a while and then they continued with their trip to Disneyland. It was on the return trip that Frank decided to stop again at the property. A deal was made. Frank and Ann were now owners of what was then called "Country Club Service," a couple of rental houses, a small house they would live in and a gas station attached to the market. All this including 3 acres came to $13,000 which the previous owners Mr. And Mrs. Miller financed for them.
It was a big change for the Gajan family. Carol, now Carol Gajan Thomas of Aromas remembers how lonely it was to live in the country, but that there was always plenty to do. Everyone worked together as it truly was a "family" business. "Mom would cook dinner for dad at 4 p.m. then she would go out to the store and watch it while he ate, then they would trade." Carol remembers earning 10 cents for cleaning the inside of each car being washed by her father. Everything was new to them. Her father learned quickly to run a store and gas station. He brought with him bartender skills that came in handy since part of the store was also a "Beer Garden." Local farmworkers and neighbors would drop by after work for a beer making it very popular. The store is located on one of the golf course's golf cart routes where often golfers would stop for a soft drink or snacks. Frank was popular with the kids since it was a great place to buy candy even though he would shoo them home and pretend to be gruff with them.
"In the late 50's my dad bought an old barrack building from Fort Ord to add as another rental. He did all the work himself and not being a pefectionist, got it up and rented quickly. In 1962, my parents built the larger house and we finally moved from the little house next to the station to the new house. It's funny now when I look back how great it was to raise a family like my parents did with us," said Carol, "but at the time, my mother didn't drive and I felt so isolated." Carol attended Pajaro Elementary, Watsonville and later Cabrillo College. She fondly remembers that her best friend lived in a house behind their property and that the people who rented their cottages became family; the fishermen bringing them fresh fish, the seamstress making her a new dress. Country Club Service continued to be very busy for 7 or 8 years. Carol's dad started to worry when word was out that Highway 1 was going to be built and detour the main traffic away from their station. Carol's dad decided to learn more about cars and trucks such as changing oil, lube and more general automotive maintenance. He appreciated his steady customers especially the Capurro Family who brought all their trucks in to him for maintenance, he would pick up and deliver the trucks. The Golf Course was a steady customer for gas and kept their account open. "I feel my Dad is looking down from heaven and is pleased to see the family business is still in the family. When my dad died in 2000, my brother and I inherited the business and property. I recently bought my brother's portion of the station/store and have turned over management to my eldest son Josh and his friend, Travis Rogsen. Josh took it over on April 1, 2002 and already remodeling has begun. They plan to bring it back to the retro look of the 1950's when his grandfather first purchased it."
With the challenge of two new puppies underfoot, Saphire and Mojo, brother and sister mixed siberian husky and white shepherd, the grand opening is tentatively scheduled for September 14, 2002. "There's a lot of love in me and this is something to pour it into," says Josh. "The store has been neglected for so long, but people are noticing the changes and customers are coming back." Josh's heart is in his music. "I sometimes start playing my guitar and a couple of hours go by and I forget to do some of my duties," admitted Josh, "but I am proud of the restoration because I would like to see the store prominent again. I'd also like to change the name back to 'Country Club Service,' as it was named in my grandfather's time. I foresee a Coffee Bar or small Restaurant being added after we make it successful." Added Travis, "We're having a great time bringing the business's reputation back to 'good personality, good vibration and good people.' We're also adding the love of music at the Hilltop Mini Mart." Located adjacent to the Pajaro Valley Golf Club, you will find Josh or Travis working or playing guitar at the Hilltop Mini Mart at 1007 Salinas Road, Royal Oaks. END