BY Mia Summerson
Niagara Gazette — Over the past 50 years not a whole not has changed on the intersection of Pine and Portage, at least not for Joe Bruno, who opened the Mobil gas station there in 1962.
Bruno, a Niagara Falls native who graduated from the old Niagara Falls High School across the street from his business in 1955, says that this is something of a family business.
“My father owned the gas station on Cedar and Portage, and later on the one on Hyde Park and Nevada,” Bruno said. “My father had gas stations since 1941. It’s something I sort of grew up with, when I was younger I liked working on cars, I did mechanical work there.”
“That gas station is like his second home,” said longtime friend and customer, Joanne Johnson, of Bruno. “He seems so happy there. It’s his place he built it and his family runs it. They provide great service and I tell everyone to go there, some even go out of their way to go there.”
Continuing with the family tradition, two of Bruno’s children, Scott and Angela have started running the business. Both have been involved in the business since they were young.
“When I was 12 I started out there cleaning bathrooms,” Scott said, “When I was 16 I started working on cars full-time.”
Scott said that he’s still working on cars now and Angela takes care of the managerial aspects.
While the sights haven’t changed much for Bruno over the past 50 years, the industry itself has changed quite a bit. For example, Bruno says, everything has evolved toward more of a self-service system, which was illegal when he first opened the station. Another thing that’s changed that everyone can relate to was the price of gas.
“You used to be able to fill your tank for three or four dollars,” Bruno said. “Some of the old cars had 22 to 25 gallon tanks. Now you have a lot of more compact cars, the tanks are maybe 10 or 12 gallons. So ten gallons today, you’re talking $40, back in those days ten gallons cost $3.40.
“We’ve had good times, we’ve had bad times. Back in 1990, 1991, 1992 and 1993 we were the number one dealer in the country.”
“We did well during that time,” Scott said. “We had advertisements in Toronto and that led to an increase in Canadian business.”
That has changed in recent years due to the opening of other gas stations, businesses like Tops getting into the gas business and also the popularity of gas stations on the Tuscarora Reservation. He said they still do a lot of business with Canadians but not nearly as much as in previous years.
According to Scott they’ve also experienced a drop in business due to the changing conditions of the city. The neighborhood has gotten rougher, there’s a lot of poverty and many people aren’t driving he said.
He also expressed concern about the future of the business if the Senecas go through with plans to open a gas station by the casino.
“If the Senecas open up a gas station in town we may as well close the doors,” he said. “The reservation is eight miles away, but if they have a station in the city no other gas stations will be able to compete.”
For now the Mobile on Pine and Portage is doing fine and Bruno says that he keeps going in to keep busy.
“It’s a long time in one place,” Bruno said. “ You get sort of attached, some days you get really disgusted and irritated and some days it’s not so bad. Every day is different, its never exactly