Small Business Story: Orono Station’s Declining Traffic as Infrastructure Develops

The CoverWallet Small Business Scholarship encourages entrepreneurship in students by asking them to take on the perspective of a local small business owner. Students share their perspective on the opportunities and challenges faced by a business in their community.

Student: Richard Beck, George Fox University

Small Business: Orono Station

Orono Station Small Business

What is my favorite small business? It would have to the Orono Station. This is a local gas station in the town of Long Lake directly east of where I live. This gas station is set on a highway that used to serve 50,000 cars a day. This highway is now known as “Old Twelve,” but used to be Interstate Highway 12. Due to traffic, a bypass lane was built just south of Old Twelve, which took 45,000 cars a day away from Long Lake commuter traffic. This bypass is a beautiful highway but has caused many traffic fatalities, so much so that a median barrier was installed in the fall of 2016, which has proven immensely helpful. It has also dramatically decreased the commuter traffic through Long Lake.

This is one of the challenges that Orono Station faces: not enough traffic to keep it a viable business. After the bypass was completed it shut down about four years ago. After a few years of closure the interior and exterior of the gas station was remodeled and made into a place for students to come and study. There are chairs, a gas fireplace, a couch, and Wi-Fi. They also made it a company that sells, instead of the name-brand food products, local brands from around the Twin Cities metro area. They also try and keep their gas cheap, and if one pays with cash, sometimes the gas is cheaper still.

The same concern over lack of traffic occurred again this spring when a three-year construction project was started on Old Twelve to install a new sewer, repave the roads, and build new sidewalks. The construction causes a genuine problem as to how the local businesses in Long Lake will succeed and thrive during three years of construction. There have been meetings of the local businessmen with government officials and about $40,000 acquired in a stimulus package to increase and encourage business in Long Lake during this period of construction. It is a concern that the Orono Station could potentially go out of business again due to the decreased traffic and inconvenience of purchasing gas.

The Orono Station is a great business for a multitude of reasons: one of them being the fact that they sell delicious sugarcane pop, another being their commitment to quality. But back to the soda. This pop is so good to drink after a day of mowing or a Cross Country practice. The flavor is Blue Raspberry or something along those lines and it is delicious.

The Orono Station is a local business serving as a convenience store and gas station. It attempts to sell local brands and cheap gasoline. Due to construction, the Orono Station faces difficulties in generating revenue. Best case scenario, it will be around for a long time continuing as my favorite small business.