Landmark Naselle business closes doors

Johnson's One Stop gas station and convenience store in Naselle is closed after 50 years in business. The station was an important economic resource and gathering place for Naselle residents and visitors. It is for sale. PHIL RAISTAKKA photo

NASELLE - Johnson's One Stop gas station and convenience store in Naselle closed its doors just before Christmas, along with four other stations owned by Johnson Oil. Johnson Oil has been a family-owned business in the Lower Columbia region for 70 years and they have owned the Naselle location for 20 years.

The Naselle station was originally built and opened in 1952 as Merle's and Jack's Richfield by Merle Hall and Jack See.

"When we first opened, Willapa Harbor Motors of Raymond wanted to sell cars from our location so we added a showroom to the station," Hall said. "They sold cars there for a few years. When they decided that they weren't going to sell cars there anymore, we put in sporting goods for sale."

Mainly, however, the station was a full service gas station where the partners sold gas, serviced cars, and did tune-ups. Over the years, many Naselle area young men got their start in the world by working at Merle's and Jack's, juggling their work hours around school and athletic schedules.

"I know that I will leave some people out but I can name some of the people who worked for us," Hall said. "Some of the young men who worked at the station included Delbert Bergquist, Leland Paavola, David Manula, Steve Bergquist, John Laney, Wayne Hall, Harvey Johnson Jr., Darrell See, Randy Tienhaara, Tim Tienhaara, Alan See, Allan Johnson, Randy Wirkkala, Jerry Rasmussen, Gary Rasmussen, Chuck Hendrickson, Scott Hall, Keith Larson and Royce Larson.

"I am sorry to see the station close. It has been an asset to the community. We ran it for about 22 years and it allowed Jack and I to raise our families, which included 10 kids, here in Naselle. When we got out of the business, Randy Tienhaara leased it for awhile. Steve Ullakko bought it from us and kept it going before the Johnsons took over. I hope, for the sake of the community, that someone keeps it open."

"I leased it from Merle and Jack for about a year," said Randy Tienhaara. "Dewey Adair and I had the station open during that time. Later, I came back and had the station for awhile before I left for good."

Ullakko said he bought the station from Merle and Jack in 1974 and operated it until 1982. For the last couple of years that he operated the station, Lance Trimble had an auto repair shop, working out of the shop part.

"I believe that he continued with that for awhile after the Johnsons bought it," said Ullakko. "They put in the convenience store, which closed the auto repair, lube and maintenance part of it."

The Johnson family bought the Naselle station in 1982. They later closed the auto maintenance part of the station and put in a deli and a convenience store which it has continued to operate until the present time.

Joy Johnson, a member of the family-owned business, said, "We have had some nibbles on the sale of the Naselle store but there is nothing definite at this time."

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