SHERIDAN — When Rex and Emily Martin moved to Sheridan in 1984, they didn’t specifically plan to run a gas station and convenience store. The couple ventured to Wyoming from Fresno, California, for the possibility of a new career and the excellent fishing and hunting opportunities.
Almost 35 years later, Emily Martin will sell the Quik Sak gas station on Coffeen Avenue at the end of the month. The sale will mark the end of more than three decades helming a store the Martins turned into a pillar of the community.
“It’s just too hard for me alone,” Martin said, adding that it was time “to try to enjoy a little bit more than just this (business).”
She has been the sole owner for about the past year after her husband died June 24, 2017, and it has been very difficult to continue.
“On one side you want to keep it going because of his memory,” son and Quik Sak employee Ryan Martin said. “On the other side, it’s not the same without him here.”
Emily Martin had been thinking about closing the store since January and told her employees — including her son, who is the Class A operator for underground storage tanks at the facility — last month of the decision.
Fremont Ford Motors will take over the property — Quik Sak was leasing the land from Fremont — and close down the convenience store Aug. 1. Fremont will use the fuel for its fleet of vehicles but won’t sell it to the public.
The Martins said Fremont Motors has been excellent to work with over the years and has been gracious during the transition phase. Ryan Martin will work for Fremont and have the same job title, and other Quik Sak employees may work at Fremont when the sale is finalized.
The Martin family moved to Dayton in the 1980s, unsure what their new business venture would be. Shortly after arriving, Quik Sak was up for sale and the Martins had their new career.
Emily Martin helped out in the early days but spent more time raising the couple’s three children — who all eventually worked at Quik Sak — at home. She became more involved in the mid-1990s when their children were older and she could dedicate more time to the store.
“Rex did it all in the beginning,” Emily Martin said. “He’s the one who carried all the stress.”
Rex Martin was business partners with a cousin for the first four years then bought him out. When his wife started working full time, he handled the business side of the operation and she took care of store orders and customer service. They were two separate, clearly-defined jobs, which worked out well for husband and wife.
“We each had our roles,” Emily Martin said. “We worked every day together and never really conflicted.”
Martin added that the family always prioritized customer service and friendliness at the small store. Her son concurred.
“Without the people, you’re not going to be successful,” Ryan Martin said.
They both emphasized their appreciation of the store’s loyal customers over the years. Emily Martin said many patrons who visited in 1984 still stop by today. To show their gratitude, Quik Sak staff will host a customer appreciation day July 28 with drinks and food.
“I think for a lot of our customers, the elderly especially, it’s very simple,” Emily Martin said. “It’s not congested like large convenience stores. So that part of it is why they like to come here.”
Emily Martin has seen Sheridan change as well. In 1984, many of the neighboring lots were open fields. Now, the surrounding area is populated by large supermarkets and fast food chains.
Quik Sak has also offered bait and fishing licenses for about the past 25 years, a unique staple of the business.
“That’s a big part of the store,” Emily Martin said. “Because we’re small, it’s just so much quicker and more efficient.”
Quik Sak occasionally did fun giveaways as well. Ryan Martin remembered his father coming up with a contest one week to see who could bring in the largest fish, with the winner receiving 10 free gallons of gas. The business also sold Christmas trees over the years.
The tenure hasn’t been all easy. Emily Martin said the toughest part was figuring out competitive fuel prices with other stores around town, which the owners didn’t have much control over.
While Ryan Martin will stay in Sheridan, his mom will move to Denver in the coming months, where her two daughters live. Emily Martin has mixed feelings about the transition. She prefers a hands-on approach to ownership and wakes up around 4 a.m. to open the store seven days per week. She is relieved to enter into a less work-centric phase of her life but will also miss the interactions with so many different community members.
Purchasing a gas station wasn’t in the plans all those years ago, but it turned out well for the Martins.