Some people can retire without knowing what’s next for them, and suddenly many voices speak up, saying, “Think about coming over here.”
Randy Mayer, 61, of Plymouth, is having one of these “come hither” experiences. In September he sold Mayer’s Mobil — a family business that, during 43 years, has become a Medina landmark. In the span of two days, he heard from a number of people who had discovered that he no longer is tied to his seven-day a week job at a small business. And they asked him to check out new locations, some of them out of state.
“He knows too much,” said his wife Debbi Mayer-Soeffker, who has worked side by side with him at Mayer Mobil since 2004.
Randy Mayer sold his service station to Lubrication Technologies, a petroleum wholesaler and distributor headquartered in Golden Valley. The station is now called Medina Mobil.
“It was sad to say goodbye to my customers, and now it’s time to move on,” he said.
Motorists cruising along Highway 55 in Medina might not recognize the Mayer Mobil name, but they are likely to remember the giant flying red horse at the corner of Highway 55 and County Road 116 as well as McDonald’s across from the Mobil station. Older motorists might not know what the intersection looked liked 45 years ago because nothing much stood out at the four corners.
The Mayer family — Don, Randy and David — contributed to changes that made the intersection memorable.
When dad Don and son Randy started up Mayer Mobil in the 1970s “not much was out there,” Randy said. Medina was all dirt roads. The Mayers purchased property in the industrial park on what now is Tower Drive, and they made sure that a dirt road would be built to access their property. They located fuel oil bulk tanks at the site.
Then in 1981 Don discovered what now is a gigantic collectable while vacationing in Brodus, Montana. He brought home a Mobil flying red horse made from porcelain, weighing 3,000 pounds and measuring 16 feet from hoof to hoof. The owner had the horse in his possession for 25-30 years, and it might have been built in the 1930s. In the end, Don Mayer paid $18,000 for purchasing the horse, transporting it and retrofitting it.
Randy Mayer said only one other flying red horse of this size and this material is in existence. It is located at the state fair grounds in Dallas. And, yes, these two icons are the largest Mobil flying equines to survive changing times.
Randy bought out his father in 1986. Dad Don died this past May at age 86 at home in his favorite chair in the company of his favorite dog.
In 1995 the Mayers rebuilt their Mobil station. Medina city officials wanted to make sure the flying red horse would remain.
The Mayer family started looking for the company of other businesses at the location of their Mobil station. Their chance came when the Fina station across the street went out of business. The Mayers purchased the property, demolished the Fina station and convinced McDonald’s to build a fast food restaurant there. McDonald’s agreed to the land sale and added a second landmark to the intersection in 1998.
Now people remember the Highway 55 and County Road 116 area because of not only McDonald’s and the Mobil station but also Peg’s Countryside Cafe, Dairy Queen and Adams Pest Control. And Medina is puzzling over what to do with all the traffic that is funneling through the intersection.
Meanwhile, Mayer Mobil found itself sandwiched between Dairy Queen and McDonald’s, and this certainly affected the gas station deli. In recent years Debbi Mayer-Soeffker took on the challenge of coming up with snacks and entrees that were different from offerings at surrounding businesses.
Randy met Debbi at a Wayzata High School class reunion a year after he lost his first wife, Mary, to cancer. Debbi was working with her father in a family cleaning business, and she had attracted the interest of the Fixit columnist for the Star Tribune. When Fixit received a cleaning question, Debbi got the call over and over, some 250 times.
After Debbi joined Randy at Mayer Mobil, the two of them “got along famously,” Randy said.
They worked together every day for nine years — except for three days, Debbi said.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute,” she said. “We never took a sick day. In that way, it was like running a dairy farm.”
She attributed her ability to work with Randy to coming from a similar background, having the same values and having respect for each other.
“We could disagree, and we didn’t get angry,” she said.
Randy said they couldn’t afford to take time for silent treatments. He was greeting 300 to 400 customers a day.
And Debbi said she and Randy enjoyed quiet times together at home at the end of their workday.
Randy employed some 160 people, many of whom came back to see him. One man is manager of a restaurant in Maui, and he asked Randy to stop by and see him.
“It’s been a wonderful experience,” Randy said. “We’ve worked hard and it’s time for us to slow down. I like to work. I enjoy people. I like to interact with people.” He added that he does not want to retire altogether.
Randy’s last words were, “Thank you to the people, for your business and support.”
Contact Susan Van Cleaf at [email protected]
CUTLINE FOR RANDY MAYER 3
Don Mayer transported this 3,000 pound porcelain flying red horse from Montana to the Mayer Mobil station in Medina in 1981. Only one other flying red horse of this size and material has survived changing times; it is located at the state fair grounds in Dallas, according to Randy Mayer. (Sun staff photo by Susan Van Cleaf)