By Chance Chamberlain
Like many small towns in the Midwest, Drexel is home to a thriving Casey’s General Store. But for people looking for an old-fashioned approach, the Bartholomew Oil Company has a full-service gas station just a few blocks away.
Founder Jack Bartholomew said, “We opened our company in 1971 to sell bulk oil around the area. That has grown to include farmers, commercial gas stations, schools and more within a 50-mile radius of Drexel. We purchased the service station in 1984 and we have done well over here.
“I think that the station has done so well because people like to support a small business who has quality service at a fair price.”
Bartholomew’s service station has serviced customers for 37 years and it is one of the last full-service gas stations of its kind. The gas station clerk fills up customers’ tanks with Amoco gasoline and handles the money transactions so customers do not have to exit their vehicles. Jack said the vision to offer a classic service experience was clear from the beginning.
“Nowadays every gas station is open seven days a week and they have candy and food and alcohol, but our goal here was never to be a convenience store. We believe Sundays are for family and for church and that is why we do not operate seven days a week,” Jack said.
“I like to keep a straightforward business at the service station. We stock oil, hydraulic fluid and other necessities for keeping your vehicle running, but beyond that we do not stock much.
“Well, except for a free cup of coffee for anybody who stops in,” he said.
Business has maintained a steady pace for the service station through the years, despite challenges faced by small businesses around the country. Co-Owner Marilyn Bartholomew attributes the success this year to their dedication to provide quality service to every customer who pulls up.
She said, “A lot of older people enjoy our services because they do not have to get out of their vehicle to get a full tank of gas. They pull right up, and our guys fill their tanks, and they pay with either a cash or card and everything is handled by our store clerk.
“It really limits the contact between the driver and everybody else. The only exchange is for payment with our clerk and the limited contact has actually been good for business,” Marilyn added.
Bartholomew Oil Company holds family to the highest value and four of their employees share the company name. Jack said working with family is what has kept him involved in the daily operations for so long.
“I love helping out with the business these days because I get to see my wife, son and grandson every day. They make getting up for work a lot easier and I have to say that it is incredibly rewarding to know they love working at the family business,” Jack said.
“They both have college degrees, but they decided they want to operate the oil company and it is just a very rewarding experience for me to work with them,” he added.
Jack and Marilyn’s son Darin began working for the family business over three decades ago after he received a Bachelor’s Degree from William Jewel College.
Darin said, “I started with the business after I graduated from school because I needed some money while I was looking for my career position. Obviously, my search ended shortly after I started here because dad made it so easy to stay. I probably would not have stayed if all I did was drive trucks, but I get to talk to customers everyday along my routes and that makes it worth it for me.”
Darin’s son Luke Bartholomew also works with his family. He first gained interest in the business at a young age when his father would take him on deliveries in the tanker truck.
Luke said, “I always knew that I wanted to work alongside my dad and my grandpa. I grew up around the business and have a lot of memories riding passenger with them both while they delivered oil to their customers. It was something I always enjoyed, so I knew from the start that I wanted to make a living this way.”
Jack reflected on the success of his small business and said he is thankful for the support from the community.
“Ever since we bought the service station in 1984 and even when we opened the oil company in 1971, the community has been supportive of us.
“We really appreciate the fact that people support small businesses, and it has been rewarding to do business with some families for as many as four generations,” he said.
“That is one of the things that I find most rewarding in all of this. We have a lot of repeat customers and we have served some of them for multiple generations.
“Like I always say, good service, quality product and fair prices will always keep people coming back,” Jack said.
Bartholomew’ full-service station is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is located at the intersection of S. First St. and W. Main St. in Drexel.