The Chevron Company now officially owns the station

by: RAY PITZ - END OF AN ERA - Johnny, Dorothy and John Alto stand outside the business they've run for almost four decades.After almost 40 years owning one of Sherwood’s most iconic gas stations, John Alto is calling it quits.

That doesn’t mean that Alto’s Chevron on the coveted corner of Highway 99W and Sherwood Boulevard is shutting down, only that the family who ran the operation — John, Johnny and Dorothy Alto – are retiring.

As of Oct 22, the Chevron Corporation officially owned the station.

“We went in June 23 (1973) in the middle of the gas shortage,” John Alto recently recalled. “It was a great decision.”

During a recent sunny fall day, Alto sat down outside the back of his station to talk about his start in Sherwood at a time when there were only two employees, two pumps and two bays for repairing cars. Today the business has 28 employees, 12 pumps, a lube and oil business, convenience store and a car wash.

The decision to move to Sherwood came after looking at stations in Bend, Seattle, Portland and Sherwood, said Alto, who had worked for Chevron management for five years after he returned from duty in Vietnam.

“We decided this is a small station but a great town,” he said.

The station has grown considerably over the years, considering there had once been talk about shutting it down even before the Altos began running it.

“We asked them to give us a chance, and 39½ years later we’re still here,” pointed out Dorothy Alto, John’s wife, who once pumped gas and now handles many of the day-to-day business operations.

John Alto said when they took over the business, which has been a gas station of some sort since at least the early 1960s, Sherwood Plaza was farmland containing creatures many local residents had never seen up close at the time —llamas.

Even though there have dramatic changes to the city and the Highway 99W landscape over the years, “To me, it still feels like ‘Mayberry RFD,’ and that’s what it is,” said Alto.

In those early days, Alto loved to sell tires and batteries. And he was good at it, selling as many as 100 tires and 25 batteries some months.

Alto credits the community with the success of the station throughout the family ownership.

“The people of Sherwood built this business,” he said. “I guess we had the right business sense, the right ethics…but they built it.”

Opening the accompanying Alto’s Lube Express in 1997, the oil shop has customers who come as far away as St. Helens for service.

Alto’s son Johnny, who runs the lube business, said what he’ll miss most about the station is the friendships he’s acquired over the years. He began his career at the station when he was 10 years old, installing studs on snow tires.

“I thought it was the greatest thing in the world because I got to talk to the mechanics in the shop,” he said.

Johnny Alto will now work on his salmon and albacore fishing business out of Warrenton, where he recently purchased a new boat. Meanwhile, Johnny’s sister Amanda, who worked at the station when she was in her teens, now owns a Seattle public relations firm.

Now John Alto said he plans on spending his retirement days shooting clay pigeons and doing some fishing and traveling.

“We want to stay involved in the community,” he said. “I think Chevron and their employees will do a great job of taking care of Sherwood customers and the community.”

Contract Publishing

Go to top
Template by JoomlaShine