Published On: Thu, Sep 21st, 2017

Hefner Oil and Feed has seen lots of changes over the years

COLERIDGE — It has been 70 years since two brothers, who grew up on a farm in the Coleridge area, made the decision to start their own business.
Elroy Hefner and Gehardt “Short” Hefner opened a service station with one service bay and two gas pumps in Coleridge in 1947.
A lot of things have changed since the doors were opened on Hefner Oil and Feed Company 70 years ago.
The two brothers sold gasoline for 19.9 cents per gallon in the first few years the business was open.
“Customers would come in and ask for a dollar’s worth of gas. They could get five gallons of gas for a dollar,” Elroy said. “Farmers would come into town on Wednesday or Saturday nights and buy gas. It would be enough to last for a week when they would be back in town.”
Elroy hadn’t really been thinking about owning and running a service station when the opportunity came up.
“I was talking to Vernie Meyers one day and he said he was thinking about selling his business. I had wanted to farm, but I couldn’t find any land,” Elroy said. “There was a lot to learn, but it has been a good investment.”
At first, Hefners leased a portion of the building from Willis Jones who had a feed business in part of the building. In 1950, Jones sold the building, along with the feed business to Hefners.
Another brother, George V. Hefner became a part of the business venture a few years later.
“He had worked part-time for us when he was in high school,” Elroy said. “When George got home from the service he bought into the business. Gerhardt had decided to get out as he was taking over a farm operation.”
Several services were added to the business over the next few years.
When a bulk oil plant was built in 1950, a country tank wagon delivery service was started.
A country custom grinding and mix service was added in 1956. In 1960, an expansion included a liquid fertilizer business, selling and applying fertilizer.
The building was completely renovated in 1963. Three service bays with an entrance from the west was added.
When Hefners first had the feed business there were a lot of small farmers in the area.
“Farmers would always have a small flock of chickens. They would start out in the spring with the baby chicks,” Hefner said. “Farmers would usually have a few hogs, milk some cows and have some fat cows.”
The business sold a lot of chicken starter and commercial feed for laying hens during the early years of their feed business.
Some of the feed came in cloth bags, which included a variety of colors and patterns. The fabric from the feed bags was used for sewing projects.
“The women would want a certain pattern when the feed was purchased. It seemed like the bag would always be at the bottom of the pile. When you were loading or unloading the bags of feed you had to be careful to not snag the material,” Elroy said. “I think the ladies liked the bags because the material the bags were made from was a little stronger.”
At first the feed that Hefners sold came in 100-pound burlap bags.
“It was a blessing when the feed started coming in 50-pound bags,” Elroy said.
Some of the fuel and commercial feed that Hefner Oil and Feed sold came in to Coleridge by rail.
Part of the building that housed the business was located on railroad land. In order to lease the land, Hefners had to use the railroad for the delivery of some of their products.
“The fuel would come in a tank car. We had 48 hours to have it unloaded,”  Elroy said.
A lot of hard work and long hours went into building the family business. Hefner Oil and Feed opened at 7 a.m. and closed at 6 p.m.
“We stayed open over the noon hour,” Elroy said. “A lot of the time we delivered fuel to the farmers in the evening after we closed. If we had enough help, the men would deliver fuel during the day but we weren’t always able to do that.”
Hefner Oil and Feed was open every day of the week. On Sundays they stayed open until noon. For a number of years, businesses in Coleridge would stay open on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.
Changes in the statutes, along with environmental concerns affected the business.
“Every year the rules and regs got stricter and the penalties increased,” Elroy said. It was costly to meet some of the specifications that came out of the Environmental Protection Act.
Aspects of the business have changed as the number of small farmers started to dwindle. The country custom grinding and mix service was discontinued.
Kerry Hefner, son of George V., is now the manager and part owner of Hefner Oil and Feed.
Kerry, has been on site for 41 years and has been the manager for at least 20 years.
Hefner Oil currently sells fuel at the pumps, has a tank wagon fuel service, offers a farm tire service, tires for any use are available for sale, does light duty repair work and sells feed.
“We have two service trucks for the farm tire service. Feed is available, but it is not a big part of the business,” Kerry said.
Hefner Oil and Feed currently has six employees.