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After 62 years, Olsons still pumping gas
And the Utah family believes the current tough times will pass

SHARE After 62 years, Olsons still pumping gas
And the Utah family believes the current tough times will pass

BOUNTIFUL -- As gasoline prices rise, brothers Doug and Keith Olson, owners of the Slim Olson Service Stations in Bountiful and Woods Cross, hold their breath but aren't "overly nervous."

"You have good years and bad years. Do we think we'll survive it? Absolutely," Doug Olson said.Crude oil prices have been high since summer but crude oil costs aren't usually reflected in the price of gas immediately, Doug Olson said.

But now the price of refining oil is catching up.

"It's extremely competitive on the retail end," Doug Olson said. "There's a lot of people selling gas for less than they pay for it."

The Olsons say they are selling their gas at cost. They sell about 350,000 gallons of gas per month per station.

"What customers say is that gas stations must be making a killing. That's not true," Doug Olson said.

At the Woods Cross gas station, located off I-15 at the 2600 South exit, "You have to make your money on hot dogs and soda pop," Doug Olson said.

Three blocks up the street in Bountiful, 2301 S. Main Street, the car wash keeps the Olson's station afloat.

The Olsons believe the Woods Cross station caters to younger people and out-of-staters. Old-timers are the regulars at the Bountiful station.

"We have customers all the time who tell us what the station was like 'back then,' " Doug Olson said.

The Olson brothers are the third generation to run the gas station. Started by their grandfather, Slim, in 1938, the Bountiful service station was once dubbed the world's largest -- with 43 pumps. Drivers of Ford street rods and Chevy Cabriolet roadsters could roll into Slim Olson stations in Bountiful and three Nevada towns: Elko, Ely and Winnemucca.

Back then, Slim Olson stations sold two grades of leaded Amoco gas, ethyl (high grade) and regular.

Slim Olson stations have been independent for most of their years, except for a brief time between 1968 and 1978 when Doug and Keith's father, Bill Olson, sold the stations to American Oil and ran them as an Amoco employee.

In 1994, Amoco stopped selling gas to independent stations, and Slim Olson stations began selling Chevron gas. Down went the large signs. And on the buildings went fresh coats of white and blue paint.

In their 62 years of business, all the gas sold by the stations has been refined at the nearby Woods Cross and Salt Lake refineries.

As the years passed, the Olsons slimmed down their number of stations to two. Bountiful, the longest surviving station, is still located on the same property but now sits on the south end. Its 90-foot carwash was once a lube center.

"They all seem to go to car dealers now," Doug Olson lamented about his lube center.

The Bountiful station still houses the above-the-ground gas storage tanks. Newer stations, including the Woods Cross Slim Olson, store gas below the ground. "It the past, it (above-the-ground storage tanks) was a kind of showpiece. They would advertise on them. They were painted every color in the world," Doug Olson said.

The Olson family owns the property of their two stations, and the property on which the Bountiful Smith's grocery store, K-mart and Boston Market are located. "We spend about as much time with real estate -- ground leases -- as we do with the stations," Doug Olson said.

Doug and Keith Olson have a combined six sons in their early teens, who, despite their youth, have started working at the stations.

"It's nice to be the third generation, and hopefully (they'll) continue on the fourth," Keith Olson said. "Either the kids are not interested or more businesses don't survive. Most businesses don't last 60 years."