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Glennwood Oil and Automotive marks 60 years in business this year and its owner, Curry Martin, has been around for all of it.
He was a small child when his father, Wilbur Martin, started an Esso station on Va. 24 in 1953 and Martin has a photo of himself, in a little Esso uniform, standing beside his father on the gasoline pump island.
Wilbur Martin’s father, George Martin, was in the country store and gas station business. Glenwood has a plaque presented to George Martin in 1935 noting his five years with the company.
George Martin’s store was where the original Glenwood was built. Wilber Martin started with Esso when the oil company offered a program under which the company would set up a service station if Martin built the building. The service station took its name from the old Glenwood School, where George Martin attended, which was nearby.
The business started small.
“Back then, 1,000 gallons [per month] would have been big,” Martin recalls.
Back then, gasoline was 16 cents a gallon.
The house Curry grew up in was right next door to the service station and he got involved in the business early. He has another photo of himself in a little Esso uniform, and no shoes, standing in front of a car when he was 7. He was small enough to slide under a car, that was ther for an oil change, and pull the oil plug.
“If the lift was tied up, they’d send me out with a wrench and a bucket to pull the plug,” he said.
Father and son had a good relationship.
“One thing I always knew,” Martin said, “I was his favorite son.”
Curry Martin was also Wilbur Martin’s only son, so that may be the reason why.
By the early ‘60s, Glenwood recapped tires, which cost $8 a piece.
“We spent all the summer capping school bus tires,” Martin said.
According to Martin, all the county’s school buses ran recap tires on the rear wheels back then.
Curry Martin has had other lines of work in addition to Glenwood.
After he graduated from Staunton River High School in its first graduating class, he went to work for B&W for $62.15 a week. Martin said that he would have money left over from that check. He said $9 or $10 would buy a week’s worth of groceries back in the mid-1960s.
And even after taking over Glenwood, Martin had a sideline in the form of 400 acres of soybeans in 1982.
“I was farming, too,” he commented.
After Martin took over the business from his father, he began expanding it. He started delivering heating oil in 1978. He had one truck and 12 customers. Now he has 7,000 heating oil customers and makes deliveries as far away as coal mines in Kentucky. He said he sells between 2 million to 2.5 million gallons of oil and gas each month.
When he took over the business he also became a Farm Bureau dealer, started doing state inspections and front-end alignments and added an auto parts store. He also had a convenience store and, for a while, had a state ABC license to sell beer. He eventually stopped selling beer and a local pastor, Wayne Murphy, asked him why.
“There wasn’t enough profit in it to go to Hell for,” Martin jokingly replied.
He moved into the current Glenwood building in 1997 and that’s when he got into the propane business. That also saw a substantial expansion of his auto repair businesses. He now has a separate auto repair facility.
“We’ll sell you the part and install it on your car, or you can take it home and install it yourself,” he said.
Being in the middle of a good market is important, but Martin noted that there are other important ingredients to success.
“You’ve gotta love people,” Martin said, explaining one of those ingredients.
Another is a lesson his father frequently said to him.
“Fair job, fair price, you’ll always stay busy,” Wilbur Martin would say.
Curry Martin puts that in practice, along with keeping his promises. Martin said that keeping a promise to a customer, even if you lose money doing it, pays off in the long run because your customer will come back.
Martin also owns the building that houses Dr. Leonard Cohen’s office. Martin said he wanted to bring a doctor to that part of the county and remodeled the interior of the building to Dr. Cohen’s specifications.
“That was a Minute Market,” he said. “I bought it and turned it into a doctor’s office.”
This also provided an advantage to Martin.
“That was my competitor,” he said. “I bought it out.”
Martin, by the way also has country store owners on his mother’s side of the family. His maternal grandfather, A. L. Hepinstall operated Hepinstall’s at the corner of Johnsons Mountain Road and Bishops Creek Road. Martin recalls these as just dirt roads back in the 1960s. The store operated until 2008 and the building is still there.
Martin represents District 2 on the Bedford County Board of Supervisors, having been appointed to fill the unexpired term of Chuck Neudorfer, who resigned from the board. Martin is running unopposed for the District 2 seat election that will be held in November for a full,