Two local businesses to be featured on PBS series
IDAHO FALLS – Kevin and Renae Oswald are the third generation owners of Oswald Service and Repair, a car maintenance and repair shop in Idaho Falls.
They are celebrating their 80th year of business in Idaho Falls, and by sheer happenstance, they’ll be celebrating that milestone in a big way.
“Startup,” a series on PBS featuring stories of small businesses across the country, will showcase the Oswalds’ story on an upcoming episode.
DIVINIA Water, a local bottled water supplier, will also be featured on the show.
“They reached out to us and said ‘We’re going to be in Idaho Falls and we’re interested in featuring your business.’ So we get to talk about our story. It was kind of a surprise,” Renae Oswald tells EastIdahoNews.com.
Gary Bredow, the series’ host, sat down with the Oswalds for a taped interview on Wednesday to learn their story and what’s kept them in business for 80 years.
Kevin’s grandfather, Lovene Crockett, acquired the business from his uncle in 1939.
“They were the old time full-service gas station where they wore a hat and bow tie. They came out and pumped your gas and washed your windows,” Renae says.
The original store was located on East Elva before a new two bay service station opened on Yellowstone Avenue and C Street in the 1950s. Crockett’s son-in-law, Blaine Oswald, took over the business at that time and added automotive and repair services to the business.
Kevin grew up helping his dad, Blaine, around the shop. When he was 8-years-old, he remembers being the one who cleaned the oil off of the shelves.
“The cans were made of cardboard then and they would weep (oil), so I’d have to climb in the shelves and wipe them down,” Kevin says.
He learned early from his father how to work hard and the values that Oswald Service stood for, which has always been honesty and integrity, Kevin says.
“Do you see that (gas) station down the road?” Kevin recalls his grandpa telling his father years ago. “You need to remember that their gas will go just as good and as far as ours will. The thing that makes ours better is the service that we give.”
Kevin and Renae took over the business in 2004. By that time, they were one of the only full-service gas stations left in eastern Idaho.
“We had it for a couple of years as a full-service station, as well as automotive repair. But gasoline prices started growing so high people didn’t want to pay that extra little bit to have full service,” says Renae. “We had these poor little old ladies who were still coming who’d never learned how to pump their (own) gas.”
Since 2006, they’ve focused exclusively on service and repair. In 2011, they moved to Yellowstone Avenue and B Street with an expanded six bay service station. For the first time last year, they opened a second location at 1005 North 2nd East in Rexburg.
“My son is working in the business and he is planning on (taking it over one day) to become the fourth generation (owner),” Renae says. “The other cool part (of our story) is that all these guys — grandpa, my father-in-law, my husband, and now my son — all of their wives have been nurses. So it’s four generations of mechanics married to nurses.”
Renae is an administrator for Nuclear Care Partners, a home-care agency that takes care of former Department of Energy workers.
Now with two Oswald locations, Renae started thinking about what she could do on the marketing side to bring in more business. She drew inspiration from an NPR podcast entitled, “How I Built this,” where host Guy Raz interviews business owners and tells their origin stories.
“These stories are inspiring and have given me encouragement when my challenges seemed tough,” Renae writes on her website. “I wanted to learn more about businesses that I frequented in East Idaho, to share in their journeys, but I couldn’t find a place where these stories were told.”
She decided to host a podcast of her own as a promotional tool for Oswald’s Service and Repair, and last September “East Idaho Entrepreneurs” was born.
Renae interviews a local business owner every week and posts them on her website. She and her husband told their story in the first episode.
“It’s truly a promotion for Oswald Service and Repair,” Renae says. “I’m not necessarily looking for national recognition. (The purpose of the podcast) was to get this association (with other businesses) in eastern Idaho. So it will be interesting to see what happens.”
Renae had recently interviewed the owners of DIVINIA Water on her podcast when the “Startup” crew reached out to her. She recommended them as another local business for the show to highlight.
The exact air date for the “Startup” episode featuring the Oswalds and DIVINIA Water is unknown, but it will be some time this fall. You can visit the show website for more information.
Oswald Service and Repair is located at 725 Yellowstone Avenue in Idaho Falls. Its hours of operation are Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
“For our business, service is a part of the name,” Renae says. “It’s about serving the community and we’re really looking to own that piece of our name and how we can serve those individuals we get to be associated with.”