The First Town Pump

2003 marks Town Pump’s 50th anniversary serving the residents of the State of Montana.  We thought it would be fun to take a look at the growth and history of our business over the past 50 years.  This article is the first of a five-part series
This picture is a photograph of the first Town Pump gas station.

Tom Kenneally, Sr. and his wife, Mary returned to Tom’s hometown of Butte with the belief that hard work, good service and competitive pricing would bring them success in the gasoline station business.  They saved for five years to raise the $5,000 to build this first, simple A-frame station in 1953, which was located next to the Civic Center.  The business was named Town Pump in honor of a water pump that was vitally important to the town of Helmville, Montana, where Tom spent some of his childhood summers

Tom and Mary ran the business by themselves back then.  The station was open from 8:00 in the morning until 8:00 at night, Monday through Saturday.  To ensure success of the business, Tom and Mary worked many long hours running the station, without a vacation, for six years.  As you can see from the sign, Town Pump was very competitive in their pricing and Tom and Mary prided themselves on having the lowest gas prices in Butte.

While at the station, Tom made a point of knowing each of his customers by name.  He also may have been the forerunner of the “quick lube” business.  He developed a sales presentation that went as follows:

He checked the oil and if the oil was low or the oil appeared dirty, he would show the dipstick to the customer.  He would comment that the oil should be changed and many times the customer would agree but say they didn’t have time for an oil change.  Tom would tell the customer that he would guarantee to change his or her oil in three minutes or less or else they could have the oil free.  Also, he promised not to charge for the labor to do the change.  When the customer accepted the offer and had selected the oil, he would hand them his wristwatch and ask them to time him.  Then Tom would spring into action and lay on his creeper and quickly roll underneath the vehicle, take out the drain plug and start the oil draining into a dishpan.  When this was going on, the vehicle was parked out on the driveway next to the gas pumps and because in those days, the cars and trucks were built higher off the ground, Tom was able to lay flat on his back on the creeper and squeeze underneath the vehicles.  Tom would then put spouts into the oil cans, remove the oil filler cap to the engine and be prepared to pour the oil into the engine.  Then back under the car to replace the drain plug and remove the dishpan with the old oil.  Lastly, pour the new oil into the engine and put the oil filler cap back on.  Tom always completed the task in less than three minutes and so never had to give any oil away.

By offering this service, Tom was able to sell substantially more oil than most other gas stations in the Butte area.  It got to the point that he was selling so much oil that he began ordering it in a full railroad car at a time and storing it in the garage next to the Kenneally  home.  The offer of an oil change in three minutes is one example of the 50-year Town Pump philosophy of doing whatever we can to satisfy the needs of the customers.

And so began the business which has grown by leaps and bounds to be what we are today, Town Pump, Inc. - a successful Montana-owned and operated family business.