East Concord’s Mobil still offers full-service fuel

Once upon a time, a bell signaled when a customer needed gas. Here lies the old bell in the office at East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair.

Once upon a time, a bell signaled when a customer needed gas. Here lies the old bell in the office at East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair. Ray Duckler / Monitor staff

Derek Contarino comes out of the service area on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Derek Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord.

Derek Contarino comes out of the service area on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Derek Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Derek Contarino waits for customers to pump gas inside the station on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Derek Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord.

Derek Contarino waits for customers to pump gas inside the station on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Derek Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Derek Contarino pumps gas at the full service pump on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord.

Derek Contarino pumps gas at the full service pump on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Derek Contarino works at a full-serve gas station in East Concord

Derek Contarino works at a full-serve gas station in East Concord Ray Duckler—Monitor staff

John Reardon pumps his own gas at the self-serve station in East Concord so he can spend time with the staff.

John Reardon pumps his own gas at the self-serve station in East Concord so he can spend time with the staff. Ray Duckler / Monitor staff

A calendar issued during the East Concord Mobil's rookie season, 1949.

A calendar issued during the East Concord Mobil's rookie season, 1949. Ray Duckler—Monitor staff

Derek Contarino pumps gas at the full service pump on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Derek Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord.

Derek Contarino pumps gas at the full service pump on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Derek Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Derek Contarino pumps gas at the full service pump on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord.

Derek Contarino pumps gas at the full service pump on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Derek Contarino pumps gas at the full service pump on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord.

Derek Contarino pumps gas at the full service pump on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Derek Contarino pumps gas at the full service pump on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord.

Derek Contarino pumps gas at the full service pump on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Derek Contarino pumps gas at the full service pump on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord.

Derek Contarino pumps gas at the full service pump on Tuesday, February 20, 2023. Contarino has been working on and off at the East Concord Mobil and Auto Repair for the last 14 years, helping owner Fadi Sarkis with pumping gas and helping with repairs at the full service station right off of exit 16 in Concord. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

By RAY DUCKLER

Monitor columnist

Published: 02-26-2024 2:59 PM

Jill Doyle got her tank filled at the gas station near the East Concord traffic circle recently and received plenty of warmth on a freezing morning.

She stayed comfortable in her car while an attendant pumped her gas at East Concord Mobil, an establishment labeled as a full-service operation.

It’s a nearly extinct landmark that, for those old enough to recall, will forever be tied to the “ding-ding” that signaled to an employee that someone needed gas after their car had rolled over a hose, setting off the bell.

There’s no “ding-ding” at the station, although the original bell used decades ago sits on the floor in the office, dusty and covered with wires and cables.

But there were still plenty of signals that turned the clock back. Doyle’s words cut through a strong wind and temperatures in the 20s, expressing herself as a woman who stops for gas at East Concord “pretty regularly.”

“Oh my goodness, to have them do this on a day this cold? It is crazy nice of them to do this. I don’t know if there are more gas stations like this one. There used to be one in Pembroke, but I don’t think that’s still open.”

Then, the warmth that had escaped through Doyle’s cracked window was replaced when Derek Contarino walked over to return her credit card.

“This is the nicest young man,” Doyle pointed out, unprompted. “And the owner is a wonderful man and we just like supporting a local business.”

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The boss is Fadi Sarkis, a Lebanese immigrant who’s leased the station for 14 years. His sidekick is 26-year-old Contarino, a Concord High graduate whose parents received full-service from Sarkis while Contarino was in high school.

They are more than boss and employee.

“I grew up here,” Contarino said. “My family knew him and I pretty much found this because my family kept coming to get gas.”

Contarino now works there six days a week. “He’s like my other son,” Sarkis said. “I’ve known him since he was a kid.”

The two have joined forces to provide a service that is viewed in much the same way as a phone booth. Self service began nationwide in 1964. Today, approximately 80% of convenience stores have self serve pumps.

Sarkis’s business was full service when he took control 14 years ago and he said, “I like to keep it this way.”

John Reardon is thankful. He pulled in for some gas with his 16-month-old Golden Retriever, Rylee.

“I come in here all the time and I recommend them all the time,” Reardon said. “There are not many people like (Sarkis) around anymore.”

Reardon is different from lots of other customers. He gets out of his truck, bad weather be damned, pumps his own gas and then goes inside to see his friends.

“Fadi has trained me to do my own,” Reardon joked.

That gives him a chance to catch-up with the East Concord Mobil staff. There’s a pot of coffee and muffins each morning, too.

And stories as well. A tipster told the Monitor that Contarino had helped a couple who lived in their car and stopped in for gas every few days. They had no heat, nor the money to have the heater repaired.

So Contarino parked their car near the office, out of view of the pumps. Then he chipped away at the problem, squeezing in time to address the heater between filling gas tanks.

“I know a lot of the customers and what they want at the pump,” Contarino said, “so if they’re filling up, I’ll click it and get it ready to go, and then I’d come back over here, loosen a bolt or something.”

And when the job was done, the homeless man was “so happy it was in there,” Contarino said.

Doyle remembered Contarino’s kindness as well.

“Last year I had old tires and he was always filling up my tires,” she said. “They don’t charge. I mean, I had to give him a little something.”

The station is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 to 6. Contarino, whose shift starts at 9 a.m., and Sarkis have a panoramic view of the traffic circle from their office. They say they routinely see poor merging, accidents or near accidents, and even people driving the wrong way around the loop.

And they see people like Doyle, too.

“They were so nice and my daughter brought her car here to get fixed all the time,” she said, moments before pulling out of the parking lot on a cold morning.

“Thank you so much,” Doyle said to Contarino.

“You’re welcome. Have a great day.”