Wednesday, May 03, 2000

Amoco owners bid goodbye to life of service, The Ann Arbor News

Amoco owners bid goodbye to life of service
By Pamela Appea
The Ann Arbor News
Ypsilanti is about to lose a family-business fixture—the Ottos, who are getting out of the service-station business.

Harlan Otto has been in the service-station business for 40 years.

But Otto and his son Dieter Otto, said the time has come for someone else to run the Bob & Otto Amoco Service Station on Washtenaw Avenue. Dieter wants to go to graduate school at Eastern Michigan University. Harlan Otto, who sold the business to his son seven years ago, said he expects the new owner to take over within two to three weeks.

When Harlan Otto first bought the Amoco station in the 1960s, he sold gas for about 33 cents a gallon. Of course, a lot has changed in the Ypsilanti area since then.

Wastenaw Avenue had about six gas stations in the 1960s, he said, spanning from the Amoco gas station to the Eastern Michigan University campus area.

“They’re all extinct now,” Otto said.

“I’ve been here a long time.”

Pittsfield and Ypsilanti Townships have seen an explosion of growth and, with it, more

“When we started here, we couldn’t find a sandwich place,” Otto said of his mechanics and other service-station workers.

Now the stack of menus from several different restaurants, several inches think on the station’s counter, tells a different story.

But the people who come in, the jokes, the stories and the friendship have remained the same over the years, Otto said.

Customers such as Ambrose Vyskocil Jr, an Ypsilanti Township resident, who has been coming to the service station for 10 years.

“Me and Otto can trade stories,” Vyskocil said.

But the service at Bob & Otto obviously is also a draw, he said.

“They’ve always treated me good,” Vyskocil said. “Once you find a place that does decent work, you stick with them.

Vyskocil, at the Amoco station for nearly 45 minutes on Friday afternoon, didn’t need any work done on his red 1993 GMC Yukon. He was just one of many customers stopping by to hold court with Otto and other friends.

Others, including Rosemary Markel, now a Manchester resident and formerly a resident of Ypsilanti Township came to say goodbye. Otto said that Markel has been coming to Bob & Otto’s for years.

The service station and repair shop is named for Harlan Otto and Bob Robinson, a former partner several years before. Otto said he kept the name sine it sounded catchy.

The service station is Otto’s third—and longest [job.] As a teen, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, traveling to the Philippines and Japan during WW II.

Otto, 73, also worked though …

Photo Caption: Dieter, left, and Harlan Otto have decided that it is time to make way for a new owner for Bob and & Otto’s Amoco on Washtenaw Avenue in Ypsilanti. Harlan started the business with a partner in 1960.

Originally Published Wednesday, May 3, 2000