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How low can Dave really go?

Palisades station continues to lead way on plunging gas prices
by: VERN UYETAKE, Prices for regular gasoline have fallen to $1.86 a gallon at Dave’s Palisades Service of Lake Oswego, making it the busiest gas station in Oregon.

The busiest gas station in Oregon has been in the news a lot lately.

Dave's Palisades Service of Lake Oswego has received visits from every television station in the area, along with many radio stations and newspapers. It has even been the subject of a few complaints to the police.

That is because Dave's has the lowest priced regular gas around, and cars are usually lined up bumper-to-bumper waiting to take advantage of prices that had gone down to $1.86 as of this week. Handling all the traffic takes a lot of work.

'It's a good thing we have a large family,' said Shawn Roche, Dave Roche's son, who is filling in as station manager while Dave is on the mend from a recent medical procedure.

But Dave's family - with sons, brother and granddaughters handling the pumps - isn't big enough to accommodate all of the customers. The Roches have had to hire nine new employees, who are even busier directing traffic and preventing fender benders than they are pumping gas and washing windows.

This scene at McVey Avenue and South Shore Boulevard all started because Dave Roche has a kind heart. Back in July, when gas prices reached record levels, he heard some heart-rending stories.

'It started with my dad hearing from older people and single moms with children when gas prices had gone over $4 and above,' Shawn said. 'They were deciding on whether to buy gas or food or medicine. He felt really bad. He started to see where he could cut prices while keeping the doors open and still pay the employees.'

Dave's station was the first to nudge prices below the hated $4 mark. But that was only the beginning. As the weeks and months rolled by, Dave was the first to go under $3, then the first to go under $2.

Of course, other gas stations have been able to lower their prices as the cost of oil has gone down. But Dave has been able to stay 20 to 30 cents ahead of the pack. How?

'We've figured out different ways to keep prices low as long as the volume is there,' Shawn Roche said. 'We're doing everything that the market will allow us to do.

'When will the prices stop falling? We've been wondering about that ourselves. The big thing is that people keep coming. Everything hinges on volume. We're not making money per car. There's no rocket science to it.

'Dad's goal is to offer the cheapest gas around, and the only way is volume.'

There are some drawbacks to the station's incredible popularity. At first the big increase in work was extremely hard to handle.

'It was real tough in the beginning,' Shawn said. 'But now all of our new employees have taken the strain off.'

Another concern has been the effect on Dave's long-time customers, the people who have been coming during his 42 years at the station.

'The long lines don't really bother us, but they're tough for our old-time customers,' Shawn said. 'They're used to having conversations while their tanks are getting filled. Those are the ones we feel bad for. We ask them to call ahead so we can make a hole in the line for them.'

By far, however, the reaction the Roches receive most from their customers is gratitude.

And Dave Roche plans to keep right on doing it.

'The minute we get a decrease, we go down on our prices,' Dave said. 'We're trying to go as low as $1.50.'

Reporter's note: According to AAA, the average gas price in Oregon has plummeted to $2.22 per gallon, the lowest level since March of 2006.