About 400 gallons of gas left at Ithaca's oldest gas station

October 30, 2008

Bill's Sunoco on east hill.Bill's Sunoco on east hill.The gas supply has dipped below 400 gallons for the first time in years at Bill's Sunoco, the old-fashioned stone gas station and service station that's been a fixture on Ithaca's East Hill since 1930. The station is having a cash-only gas sale, offering regular gas for $2.699 per gallon until it runs out.

Next week, a crew will remove the gas tanks and fill in the parking lot, after which the business will resume its auto service operation. Bill's Service specializes in maintenance and repair of foreign cars, as well as all-wheel-drive American models.

The gas and service station opened in 1930 as a Socony outlet, selling gas from Standard Oil Company of New York, shortly before that company merged with Vacuum Oil. Eventually, Socony-Vacuum became Mobilgas, which merged just a decade ago with Exxon (originally Esso, an unrelated Standard Oil). The company is now ExxonMobil.

Before the gas station could be built along what was then New York State Route 13, students with picket signs protested the company's plan to take down a stand of pine trees along the road to make room for the station's parking lot, reminiscent of this decade's Redbud Woods protests below Cornell's west campus.

The staff at Bill's Sunoco believes it to be not only Ithaca's oldest gas station, but New York State's oldest gas station. Many older gas stations closed over the last couple of decades, as strict new tank regulations and testing requirements caused many station owners to decide it wasn't worth the expense or the hassle to continue operating. Many other old gas station and service station combos have become convenience stores, as gas stations struggle to find other ways to be profitable as the costs of doing business skyrocket while their profit per gallon of gas (often just 10-12 cents per gallon) has stayed virtually unchanged.

Bill's was also one of just two remaining full-service gas stations in Ithaca, after Patterson's stopped selling Mobil in the mid '90s wave of gas station closures. Patterson's in downtown Ithaca, and Corners Auto Repair Service in Cayuga Heights, both switched to service stations only; CARS just recently closed entirely.

Local drivers who prefer to let others pump their gas can still find full service at Kwik-Fill at the Route 13 intersection of Meadow Street and Elmira Road. For now, there are still a few fill-ups to be found at Bill's, for about 30 cents per gallon under the prevailing rate this week. Swing by an ATM to grab some cash!


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