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KEARNEY, Neb. — Longtime Casey's General Stores Inc. Manager Steve Arnold retired this week after 38 years of service, reported the Kearney Hub. Arnold started working at his store, a former Holiday ServiceStation located at 115 E. 25th St. in Kearney, in 1976, when gas sold for less than a dollar per gallon and automobile services were available.
"We employees pumped gas in those early years, too. In the winter, thank goodness, we could put our hands on the warm engine when we checked the oil," Arnold told the news outlet. "That pay phone got a lot of use, too, but now, with cell phones, we have a whole generation of kids who have never seen a pay phone."
The store also converted to a computer system from the old-fashioned crank-style cash register, which simplified many store operations, he said.
Arnold graduated from high school in Omaha, Neb., and attended two years of college at the University of Nebraska before gaining work experience at a Newberry's dime store and an IGA supermarket. After being hired by Holiday and managing one of the chain's stores in Denison, Iowa, for three years, he returned to Kearney to manage his current store and stayed for the rest of his career.
Early duties at the store included walking through with a legal tablet to write down quantities of products that needed refilling, and placing orders by calling an 800 number. Today, Arnold contacts dozens of vendors electronically and receives deliveries at a variety of times, instead of once or twice a week. Along with the usual convenience goods, the store also sold bicycles, lawn mowers and fishing rods, according to the report.
"We even had a few guns," Arnold said, "Kmart hadn't opened yet."
The store went through extensive remodels around 20 years ago, and Casey's purchased the store in 2010, along with four others in Kearney. The popularity of certain products changed over time, along with the store's amenities, which now include a soda fountain, coffee bar and cappuccino machine. The store also has 17 cooler doors, compared to the two refrigerators and single freezer it had when Arnold was hired.
"I never had the foresight to think that I could make money selling bottled water," he said. "It's just crazy."
This Casey's store has never closed due to poor weather, and it was a valuable source of fuel and batteries in 2006 and 2007, when a holiday ice storm struck the area.
"People were lined up for gas. We sold all the water and gas we had," Arnold said. "I tried to keep propane tanks around. They eventually got the road opened, but they had to get the power lines back up. What a job that was."
Arnold said that he will miss the people most after his last day of work on Friday. "We've had great people," he said. "I've enjoyed this. I'm in no panic to get out."