By Jennifer Von Ohlen
DASSEL, MN Friday, Aug. 18, is the last day drivers can fill up at Ron’s Service in Dassel as Ron and Betty Rauschendorfer have decided to close their doors and enter retirement after serving Dassel and its travelers for almost 44 years.
“Our [credit card processing] equipment had to be updated if we wanted to stay in the fuel business, and we decided not to update it,” Ron stated, explaining that since he will be 66 in September, and Betty will be 65 in December, “it’s just the right time” to retire.
“Everything has just kinda fallen into place,” he said.
While the gas pumps and C-store will for sure be closed, Ron said it is still up in the air as to whether or not he will keep the auto and tire center open.
“The entire business will be closed for definitely a month,” said Ron. “[After that], there will be a sign on the door telling which direction I went,” whether he’s back in the shop, or staying home.
Ron’s Service: a history
The Rauschendorfers started their business in October 1973, which, at the time, had Standard Oil (Amoco), the current sitting/waiting area (then the sales room), and a two-stall auto and tire center. The third stall wouldn’t be added until 1979, along with an automatic car wash which they kept for 17 years.
They also inserted a third underground fuel tank that year, allowing them to offer three fuel grades: regular, mid-grade, and premium. In time, the mid-grade would be switched out for diesel.
By 1994, Ron’s Service supplied bait and sport goods, such as shot gun shells and other hunting equipment.
“It went very well,” said Ron. “We had a lot of happy people around the area. That’s when the fishing was pretty good.” They operated the bait business for 18 years before selling out.
With all of these services taking up the sales room, the Rauschendorfers decided to add the C-store onto their building in 1999. Betty took charge of the storefront, while Ron handled everything in the auto care shop.
Their son, Aaron, also worked alongside them for 15 years, as well as what Betty estimates to have been about 100-150 high schoolers.
“It was interesting with the high school kids,” noted Betty. “Some of them could step right into it, and some were so shy that it was really a good thing for them, because they had to be in contact with the public.”
These interactions would shape their quieter employees into more confident individuals, transformations which their teachers even commented on.
“One [teacher] for sure had said about one kid, that it was just amazing how he changed working here,” shared Ron. “The teachers came, and said, ‘hey, you guys are teachers.’ You never think of it that way, but [the students/employees] learn. It builds their self-esteem.”
“So, you’re doing something you don’t realize you’re doing,” he added.
‘Dumping the responsibility’
As the Rauschendorfers head into their first weekend as a retired couple, Ron said he is looking forward to “dumping the responsibility.”
“You still have to be responsible for things, but [Ron’s Service] is a hard job,” he explained. “If you care about it, it wears on you more, yet.”
Winters were especially difficult for the Rauschendorfers to work through, since they had to maintain and clear the walkways, work under cars dripping with melting snow, and plow the lot and pump area (sometimes all day).
“We’re the ones who can’t sleep in and take a snow day,” said Betty. “It gets difficult.”
Instead of having to move snow around, the Rauschendorfers can now use their time to travel, visit with their grandchildren, and return to abandoned hobbies.
Ron said they appreciate all the people who supported them and helped them throughout the years. “We couldn’t have done it without them. There’s still a lot of good people around,” he stated.
“When I think about it, the people that have supported us over the last 44 years is amazing. We have some customers that have been our customers that whole time,” Betty marveled.
“Like one guy told me,” Ron added, “‘You must be doing something right if you’ve been here that long.’ I said, ‘I guess you’re right.’”