W. MI full-service station weighs in on Oregon pump change

Venema Service in Zeeland among last full-service gas stations in W. MI

A Jan. 5, 2018 photo of Venema Service in Zeeland, which offers full-service gas pumping to customers.

ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — For most West Michigan drivers, having someone else pump your fuel may seem a bit odd.

But in Oregon, pumping gas yourself during the day had been illegal — until just this week.

While it’s still illegal for drivers to pump their own gas in Oregon’s big cities, a new state law now allows 24-hour self-service at gas stations in counties with a population of less than 40,000.

The reaction from some Oregonians has become a big story.

“I don’t even know how to pump gas,” one woman wrote. “I am 62, native Oregonian… I say NO THANKS!”

Comments like those were met with backlash, as many people mocked reluctant fuel pumpers.

“Just curious. What other simple tasks are people from Oregon incapable of doing?” one man asked.

“I was floored when I realized they were actually serious,” one woman said of those complaining.

The story eventually reached Venema Service in Zeeland, which is one of the last full-service gas stations in West Michigan.

There, a bill rings, an attendant rushes out to pump gas, and the driver stays inside their vehicle the entire time.

“There’s people that have been like — that take pictures of us pumping their gas, and post it on Facebook because it’s so crazy that we’re doing it,” station owner Ben Mitchell told 24 Hour News 8 Friday.

The gas station has sat at the corner of E. Washington Avenue and N. Elm Street since the early 60s.

While Mitchell and the workers laugh lightheartedly about the situation in Oregon, in this bitter cold weather, Venema Service is a place people count on.

Zeeland resident Ashley Dekker said it’s her go-to gas station.

“My parents used to have people pump their gas,” she said. “It’s a nice old school feel.”

For Venema Service, it’s not about laws, but embracing an age-old tradition and offering people help.

“It’s just something we’ve always done,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s kind of neat, a niche that we can keep going.”

Venema Service is also an auto repair shop. Mitchell said that about a decade ago, the former owner almost decided to get rid of the gas station, but ultimately decided to keep it and uphold the tradition.