Jet is not the only brand to be celebrating its 50th birthday this year. Greenthorpe Darnall Central Garage in Sheffield, is also enjoying a big anniversary. It is planning a special day on its forecourt to commemorate half a century of selling fuel. And it also happens to be a Jet retailer.
“We’re going to have an open day on the forecourt and create a bit of a party atmosphere,” says Dianne Wainwright, who runs the garage with her husband Ernie and niece Denise.
“ConocoPhillips has also promised to send us the original Jet branded tanker that’s been refurbished, to help with the day’s celebrations.”
Greenthorpe was originally established in 1946 by Dianne’s father George
Thorpe – the ‘Green’ is her mother’s maiden name. George was a lorry driver at the local colliery in Sheffield. He branched off and bought his own lorry and a yard. After a few years he moved down the road to a new plot of land where he developed the filling station in 1954. Dianne’s brother Alan, a young boy at the time, worked with him. Although the family owns the garage, the land belongs to the Sheffield council – it has a 99-year lease running from the time the forecourt was built. The first fuel supplier was Shell-Mex and BP, then in 1984 the company moved to Esso. Around that time the garage was rebuilt and moved further back on the land, because of the widening of the busy main road at the front of the site.
“We never closed – we had the two garages more or less running alongside each other,” says Dianne. “The old pumps were working at the front, while the new pumps and canopy were being installed. At one time we had two canopies!
“It sounds hard, but we’ve always done things like that. We didn’t get any compensation for having to move the garage because of the road, but the council did work with us by only closing one end of the forecourt at a time. It did take away a piece of the back yard, so around that time as well my father dispensed with the fleet of lorries he had then, and began breaking Volvo cars and selling parts and a few cars.”
Roll on another 20 years and the car parts are now being cleared out to make way for a big shop: “Sadly six years ago my dad died and the business was left to his three children – myself, my brother, and my sister Barbara. In the following years we started thinking about winding the business down and selling it, as my brother and his wife (who also worked in the company) were nearing retirement. Nobody was really interested as there were no boys coming up in the family, and the girls had their own careers. However, Ernie and I thought we’d have to find something else to do if the business wasn’t there. At the same time, my niece Denise was getting rid of her sandwich shop and wanted a job as well – so we decided to stay.”
Two years ago was crunch time and the family discussed many possibilities of what to do with the business. “At about that time Esso didn’t seem to want to do business with anyone here in Sheffield anymore – it seems to have gone out of this area altogether – and wasn’t prepared to do any deals,” says Dianne. “So we tried all the different oil companies and got set up with Jet two years ago. We’ve been very happy with Jet – it has helped us do the site up, and now we are progressing – getting rid of the car stuff, planning to rent the back yard out, and putting all our focus on the garage.”
Last year the forecourt did four million litres, having rapidly increased its volume since being with Jet – a combination of migrating volume following site closures, and significant improvements. “We’ve installed better pumps, re-concreted the forecourt, put in LPG and a new jet wash. It’s always been a busy site, but since we’ve developed it, it’s just got busier,” enthuses Dianne. “Also Jet keeps you very competitive on price.”
Dianne’s father introduced 24-hour opening on the site in 1956 and it’s been open day and night ever since – over the years maintaining regular custom from local companies, taxi drivers and the emergency services, as well as commuters and nearby residents, and building up to having 80 account customers before the switch to Jet. The site caters for big diesel trucks with its two diesel pumps dispensing up to 500 litres. The LPG pump is also attracting new customers.
“We have about 4,000 litres of LPG delivered every eight or nine days,” says Dianne. “LPG is working for us – not everybody sells it, which helps.
“We’ve also developed the shop which we hadn’t done before. We’d always sold a few drinks, sweets and cigarettes, but with Denise coming into the business and taking on the retail side of things, we’ve put a lot more in the shop.
“She puts on seasonal displays which have been very successful in generating sales. We’ve also installed a coffee machine and sell things like Pot Noodles. We’re doing about £25,000 per month out of the shop, which is very good considering its size. That’s why we want to progress and redevelop the buildings once used for the car parts business and turn them into a big shop. We don’t make a lot of profit out of petrol, and we’ve always had something else to keep us going. A B&Q is going to be built alongside us next year, so that will make the site even busier.”
Dianne and her family are excitedly planning for a whole new chapter in the life of the garage, including the day of the 50th birthday celebrations – scheduled for July 30th – for which they are having special key rings and tankards made to give away to customers. Banners, old photos, food and drink should create a general party atmosphere in which to thank all their customers who have been coming to them for years.
Asked why the Greenthorpe business is still alive and kicking when so many garages in the area have failed, and Dianne’s reply is simple: “We’ve always tried to keep everyone happy – whatever petrol we’ve sold.”