Eastern Iowa loses a full-service gas station

Cedar Rapids' staple Novak Sinclair will move sans fuel

George Ford
Published: October 17 2012 | 5:00 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 2:05 am in

Novak Sinclair, one of the last full-service stations in Eastern Iowa, will be closing Dec. 7 after 30 years at the corner of Bowling Street and Wilson Avenue SW in Cedar Rapids.

Jim and Sue Novak will be relocating the automotive service and used-car portion of the family-owned business to a new location at 4547 Johnson Ave. NW. An auction will be held at 10 a.m., Saturday, at that location to sell many vintage and one-of-a-kind items accumulated by the Novak family over 65 years in the automotive service business.

"Hy-Vee has purchased our station at 2300 Bowling St. SW to build a convenience store next year, which the company is doing at many of its stores," Jim Novak said.

"We marked our 30th anniversary at that location on Aug. 2. My father had gas stations all over the west side starting in 1947 after he returned from the war.

"I started working with him in the summer months when I was about 12 years old. I guess it sort of got in my blood."

Novak said the Johnson Avenue NW location will offer everything that the Bowling Street station has except for gasoline. Customers, particularly those who are elderly, depend on Novak and his staff to pump their gasoline, check their tires and handle their vehicle repairs.

"Some of them are in their 90s and have never pumped their own gasoline," Novak said. "I have an agreement with Hy-Vee that each Wednesday will be seniors' day. The only way they would agree to do that is if I will come back over to pump gas."

Longtime relationships with his customers who drive from communities such as Ely, Marion, Swisher and Shueyville made the decision to sell Novak Sinclair all the more difficult.

"We have at least five customers who had my father working on their cars in the 1940s," Novak said. "Many of our customers have been putting food on our table since before I was born.

"We've been having meetings with Hy-Vee for about four years. I wasn't holding out for more money.

"A big part of me just didn't want to do it."

Novak said the decision to not offer gasoline at the new location on Johnson Avenue NW was prompted by pure economics.

"Everyone is using credit cards and it really cuts you," he said. "Last week, I had it figured at 42 cents profit per $100 of gasoline, and that doesn't include the cost of paying s0meone to pump it."

Looking forward, Novak said Saturday's auction is likely to draw bidders from out of state.

"We've had inquiries from several states about Dino, our (Sinclair Oil Corp.) Fiberglas dinosaur that's sort of an icon," he said. "We know of a Dino that sold for $5,000.

"We expect a lot of interest in our vintage glass globes that topped gasoline pumps. We also will be selling vintage gas pumps as well as five Coke machines from the 1930s."

Sue Novak said a lot of the automotive signs, toys, Wolfganag Ertl artwork, posters and other items to be auctioned have been stored at their home.

"We have Lionel trains, lots of Dale Earnhardt collectibles, large scale Texaco oil tanker ships, antique golf clubs and other things that have been collected over the years," she said. "We plan to keep a few of Jim's favorite things, including a vintage gas pump at our new location."

For more information about the auction and photographs of some of the items being sold, go to www.gregchristyauctions.com.


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