RUNNING DRY: Doug and Di Behn will close their Evans Head service station doors in the next 48 hours after serving the quiet coastal town for 35 years.
RUNNING DRY: Doug and Di Behn will close their Evans Head service station doors in the next 48 hours after serving the quiet coastal town for 35 years. Jamie Brown

Small town 'servos' under the pump

WHEN the bowsers at Behn's Service Station in Evans Head suck their underground tanks dry - either today or tomorrow - the doors will close on the iconic business.

And with it will go a level of convenience and service which may never be replaced in the quiet village.

While the 'servo' has been listed for sale, there have been no buyers. And the cost to modernise the site to meet new environmental requirements is too much to justify.

“What is happening here is just the start of what will happen in small towns everywhere,” Mr Behn said.

The Behns came to Evans Head in 1974, opening a service station on the corner of Woodburn and Cashmore streets, a site which is now a new supermarket, before moving to their present location six years later.

In that time, and before that while operating a service station in Sydney, Mr Behn said he never, ever, made money from selling petrol.

“We were just the pawns for the oil companies,” he said.

“Selling fuel was only a drawcard for other things like mechanical work, car insurance or confectionary.”

Mr Behn helped found the Service Stations Association while still in Sydney and felt optimistic enough about that new, united front that he continued in the industry, keen to make a future.

But even with small successes, like legislation which demanded oil companies service independent operators, there was no joy.

“They would take my order but wouldn't deliver,” Mr Behn said.

And while the mechanical and insurance sales side of Mr Behn's small empire has created an income, selling petrol has been one long disappointment.

With his workshop and insurance sales now separate from the petrol station, there is no reason to keep it.

“I work 85 hours a week for $500 and my wife Di does the same,” he said. “What's the point?”

For Mr Behn, not having to man the service station may mean he gets a chance to support his favourite footy team, the Parramatta Eels. He is such a fan that he painted his building in their colours several years ago - in part so he wouldn't have to paint the station in the colours of a major oil company.



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