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Scranton Cenex, an oasis for drivers

Scranton's Cenex station is a place for travelers to get fuel after a long drive. In addition to hot coffee, the store also offers auto services, hardware and even hunting supplies. Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press1 / 3
Scranton Cenex's Java Stop is a place for the community to gather and have a hot coffee or sweet smoothie. It is especially popular with Scranton's students, Employee Becky Hodell said, and is appreciated by travelers after a long drive. Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press2 / 3
John Truetken, Scranton Equity fuel manager, enjoys being able to provide a needed service for drivers along two highways that offer little in the way of automotive service. For the people of Scranton, the Cenex station also offers a warm gathering place in its Java Stop. Brandon L. Summers / The Dickinson Press3 / 3

SCRANTON—Travelers on east-west Highway 12 and north-south Highway 22 will find little in terms of essential automotive services.

In such an emergency, Scranton's Cenex station exists as an oasis for drivers. For the people of the small community, with a population of about 300, it is a warm place to gather.

Located on Hamilton Street and Highway 67, the Cenex station is owned by Scranton Equity, which has nearly 70 employees.

"This station's been here for quite a long time," John Truetken, Scranton Equity farm and fuel manager, said. "Scranton Equity's been here for 70 or 80 years."

Scranton Equity is a co-op, Truetken said.

"We have a gas station. We have a lumber yard. We have the grocery store. We have a truck shop. We have a feed mill. We have an elevator. And in Bowman we have a travel center," he said.

There is much to be found in the convenience store.

"We've got sandwiches and snacks, and things like that," Truetken said. "In the same store we have fuel products, fuel delivery, propane, and a lumber yard."

The store also has a Java Stop, which offers coffee and smoothies.

"I make the coffee. Java, cappucino, lattes, frappucino, that kind of stuff," Employee Becky Hodell said. "There is no other cafe or coffee shop in town."

Like the drinks she serves, the Java Stop brings warmth to people in Scranton.

"It makes me happy when I can make other people happy," Hodell said. "The kids are the most fun. They come in after school and they're always in a hurry and noisy and happy, and it's fun to make drinks for them."

Often, Hodell has encountered people who are grateful there is such a place in Scranton after a long drive.

"It happens a lot actually," she said. "We're the only gas station for a ways around here, so they're always happy when they can get coffee with their gas."

The fuel station and convenience store is appreciated by many, Truetken said.

"The Cenex is kind of the thing that makes this town run," he said. "Other than Scranton Equity there isn't many other businesses here in town anymore. We have a bar and we have a school and our post office, but if it wasn't for Scranton Equity there wouldn't be much of a town here."

Truetken has received gratitude from weary drivers, as well.

"Once in a while, there will be somebody who comes in and will thank you for something that you never thought much about, and you've done for someone and it really helps them out," he said.

Such service reflects the town's values, Truetken said.

"Most everybody in Scranton's really friendly and willing to help, no matter what they're asked. It's just a nice place to be," he said. "It's a nice little town. I grew up in Kansas and moved here 24 years ago, and never regretted it one minute."

One area the Scranton Equity shop is always trying to improve is its service.

"Service is free. It's something we can offer and just being more helpful and just trying to treat people like you'd like to be treated," Truetken said. "Once in a while you'll fill somebody's tank if it's a cold and snowy day, or wash their windows. Those are things we try to do once in a while. Not always, but if I'm not busy I'll go wash your windows."

Even though it's the only business of its sort for miles, it still faces challenges.

"The challenge is competing with bigger towns and businesses that are chain stores or something like that," Truetken said. "We can't compete with those kinds of businesses, but we offer a lot of products, the same things they do."

Scranton's Cenex station also benefits from being an oasis.

"People expect a lot from you when you are the only business," Truetken said. "When you are the only business, they look to you for everything. You got to try to help everybody you can with whatever you can."

Truetken knows firsthand the value of such availability.

"Lots of times I've been on the other side of the counter, too, where I needed something and you're out in the middle of nowhere and somebody helped me," he said. "I used to be a custom harvester and we moved our machines up and down the road and you might blow a tire somewhere and need to get that tire fixed and there was somebody always there to help."

Being the fuel station's manager comes with frustrations, Truetken said, but also rewards.

"Everybody in town is your friend," he said, "and I try to treat everybody the same regardless of whether they do business here or not, because some day they might."