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John's Phillips 66 will soon pump its last gas

Owner has seen many changes over the years

April 14, 2009

After 48 years at the same location on Highway 100, John Haita will soon close John's Phillips 66.

Haita, 76, began working at the station in 1961 during the full-service era, a time when attendants pumped gas, cleaned windshields and put air in the tires of just about any vehicle that pulled into the station.

"The station has changed quite a bit," Haita said. "It had only six pumps when I started working part-time. That was when I was going to college on the G.I. Bill."

Haita took over the lease of the station-convenience store in 1964 and bought it outright in 1972. With help of family and part-time help, he has run the operation ever since.

However, he recently sold the station and property to Ewald Automotive Group. He would not divulge details of the transaction but said he would likely close at the end of the month.

Haita conceded in an interview late last week that many well-wishers have already stopped by the station to bid him farewell.

"It's very emotional at times," he said. "I'm a people person. I miss the days of the full-service operation.

"Today you don't get to know people as well because they use their credit cards outside at the pumps."

What will the longtime village service station owner do after Ewald takes over the property?

"I'll go look for a job," he said. "I don't know what I want to do yet, but I want to stay as active as I possibly can until such time as I have to quit altogether."

Hales Corners Village Planner Dyann Benson said Ewald management will not bulldoze the station or a nearby shop that Haita has used.

"Ewald wants to move an office they have on the Franklin side over to the John's 66 location," he said. "They're keeping the canopy and keeping the convenience store. But they will remove the Phillips 66 logo and all but one of the 10 gas pumps."

Benson said an area in back of the station now used for storage will be paved.

"They want to have some cars for sale on the property," said Benson. "They'll keep the shop that John has there now and use that for detailing."

The Plan Commission has already approved Ewald's plans, subject to approval by village staff of several technical details.

Haita said he is not sure when his final day will be at the station.

"To be honest, I would kind of prefer to fade away," Haita said.

John Neville can be reached at (262) 446-6609.

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