By ROBERT LINNEHAN
Almost 20 years ago Carl Newkirk, owner of Carl’s Haddonfield Service, broke his foot while walking along a snowy sidewalk to his gas station at the corner of Haddon and Rhoads avenues. At the behest of his wife, he asked one of his most trusted employees, George Dieser, if he would take over the business.
Dieser, an employee at the gas station since 1988, said he was too young for the position and turned him down. Every day since, he said, he’s regretted his decision. James Jones, a longtime mechanic at the station, accepted Newkirk’s offer and was owner of the station until late in September when he passed away. Dieser was again offered the station and this time he didn’t think twice.
Dieser, a local Haddonfield resident, began working at the station in the late 80’s after asking Newkirk if he needed help with his new business. He’s been a pump jockey, an auto body maintenance employee, and a tow truck driver; almost every job imaginable at the station, and he’s now extending his resume to include owner.
Newkirk immediately trusted him when he started, Dieser said. After only six months of being an employee at the station, Newkirk handed him the keys to the station and told him to watch the business while he went to Alaska for two weeks. After the station was closed on Sept. 27 following Jones’ death, Newkirk again had a hand in transitioning the station to Dieser.
“He stayed until the paper work was completed,” Dieser said, his head swiveling to look outside as more cars pulled up for gas. “About an hour after it was all finished, he jumped in his car and drove off for Florida.”
Dieser was also at the service station during the most dangerous day of its history. One afternoon in 1995 while in the office ringing up a customer, Dieser said he looked over to the fuel tanks and saw one of the containers leaking a steady flow of gasoline onto the service floor. Before he could shut off the tanks, the gasoline went up in flames and completely gutted the station.
The station was closed temporarily, he said, but a complete canvas Quonset hut and pay station were erected at the site to serve motorists while the permanent building was reconstructed.
The station reopened on Dec. 27 during a snowstorm, but through word of mouth from its dedicated regulars. Dieser said customers have been driving up for fill ups and tune ups for the past several weeks.
One of the only stipulations he made in the sale, Dieser said, was to keep the entire employee staff on hand for the new station.
The service station has developed a strong following of regular customers, Dieser said, and ever since the grand opening the phone has been ringing with people asking if they could bring their car in for repairs or fill ups.
Mayor Tish Colombi said it was fantastic to reopen a Haddonfield landmark and for a Haddonfield native to keep the business going.
“I encourage the residents of Haddonfield to return to Carl’s for their gasoline and car repairs, or if you go to another place for your car, try Carl’s and receive the friendliest and best service you will ever get,” she said.