‘This is my American Dream’: Freeport full-service gas station one of few left in Illinois – Freeport Journal-Standard
FREEPORT — Growing up, Dan Rieger knew what wanted to do with this life.
His grandfather was a mechanic who worked on farm equipment and his dad owned a garage in Manchester, Iowa.
“I just kind have always done this,” said Rieger, who owns Dan’s Route 66 Service, Freeport’s only full-service gas station.
That’s right. At Dan’s, when someone pulls up for fuel, an attendant will pump their gas, check their oil and make sure the tires are aired up. If they’re not, they’ll get topped off, too.
“There’s nothing else I would rather do,” Rieger said. “I love coming to work in the morning.”
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Plan was always full-service
Besides pumping gas, Rieger’s team does oil changes and repairs of all kinds — brakes, engine work, tires, alternators and more.
When he bought the place in 2000, he said he received plenty of advice about how to turn the corner station into a modern-day auto shop with a couple self-service pumps and things found at just about every convenience store in town.
Rieger wasn’t hearing it.
There were plenty of self-service stations in Freeport. The previous owners ran a full-service operation, and he already had a plan.
“My dad had a place just like this,” he said. “And I always knew in the back of my mind that someday I would do this.”
His age was the only thing that prevented Rieger from taking over the family business. His dad died when Rieger was 17, and there was nobody to keep it going.
“I was still in high school, and I was just too young to run a business, so we sold it,” he said. After high school, Rieger attended Hawkeye Technical Institute — now Hawkeye Community College — in Waterloo, Iowa, then worked as a mechanic in Cedar Rapids.
A short stint as a railroad worker followed, and in 1984, he landed in Freeport.
A neighborhood niche
Rieger says he understands the self-service model. It’s quick, easy and cheap. But there’s something about the experience that’s missing — face-to-face interactions and the relationships that develop from a service nobody else offers.
“I have 80-year-old women who come in who have never pumped gas in their lives,” he said. “Their husbands always took care of it. Their husbands are passed away, so they come in and we fill it up for them.”
The station gets about 200 gas customers a day.
Dan’s Route 66 is one of three known full-service stations in the state. Kean Brothers in Chicago and Donaldson’s Standard Service in Beecher City are the other two.
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