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Meet Randy Pastor, of Pastor’s Auto Center in Citrus Heights

Pastor's Citrus Heights
Randy Pastor stands outside his gas station convenience store at the corner of Old Auburn Road and Sunrise Boulevard. // CH Sentinel

By Hazel Ford–
Randy Pastor and his wife, Karen, are the managers and owners of their long-time family business at the corner of Sunrise Boulevard and Old Auburn Road in Citrus Heights. What began as a small gas station in the 1970’s run by Randy’s father, Steve Pastor, has now grown to include a wide range of services, with RV rentals, a car wash, and an auto service center .

We sat down with Randy for an interview on a recent Thursday to ask him about his business, background, and what it’s like to run a gas station.

Do people often ask where the name “Pastor’s” came from?

RP: Everybody asks that — they’ll say, “Are you preachers, or something?” Although my dad is a pretty devout Christian — he has been for a number of years — he chose to call our business this because our family name is Pastor.

How did you start your business?

RP: In the 1970’s the gas station on this corner was called “Steve Sunrise Texaco,” which later became an Exxon. In 1998, when the oil companies Exxon and Mobil merged together, they had to sell the assets in California, and my dad was finally able to buy this gas station. At the time, he was 63 or 64 years old; he was ready to retire but he’d been waiting for this chance for a long time.

I was working as an auto mechanic in an old-fashioned three-bay gas station at the time. I told him, “Don’t worry about it, we can do it.” I didn’t know what I was getting into, I’d only been an auto mechanic for about 13 years up to that point.

When we first started, we were always here. It was my mom, my dad, my wife, myself, my brother, and his wife — all of us. There were times I slept on the floor here when we first opened up. I ended up putting a cot in my office and I slept there for about two weeks.

What have some major milestones for your business been?

RP: When I first started the station, just being able to open it was a major milestone. But I would also say that starting the car wash was a big one. We opened in 2001, and in 2003 when I went to build the car wash, a lot of people complained. We had to work through the issues, but finishing that project was great.

What background do you have in this line of work?

RP: I started working at gas stations on this corner with my dad when I was 12. I came from a gas station in Roseville, where I started at age eight. I was just a little kid and all I wanted to have was a uniform — I don’t know why.

What’s it like running a gas station in 2018?

RP: Very, very difficult. I never would have realized, back in 2000, that I would be babysitting trash cans and bathrooms. The last five years have been very tough dealing with some of the drug-using population that want to hang out in the bathrooms and leave their needles behind and waste behind that we have to go back and clean up. I hadn’t realized how bad that was going to be. The gas station part by itself is easy — all we have to do is pump gas.

What’s the biggest difficulty you’ve faced as a business owner?

RP: Like I said, it’s the drug users who turn-up in our bathrooms. I’ve had to start locking our bathrooms and babysitting the doors. They shoot up in our bathrooms and get blood all over the walls, or defecate everywhere. I can’t even count how many times they’ve been in the dumpster area. Padlocking my dumpsters was never something that would have occurred to me.

What’s your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

RP: Surviving 18 years. I think that’s it.

What do you think of the proposed Arco gas station down the street?

RP: I’m not one to stand in the way of anybody’s business, because I’m a businessman myself. The proposition does seem strange though. If an Arco is a good idea for that shopping center, then it would have been constructed there back in the ‘70s. Oil companies are very good at finding the perfect corner for their gas stations.

I feel like this Arco is really unneeded. If there were lines of people fighting to get to the gas pumps, then I think it would be necessary. But we have three gas stations right here.

Where is most of your consumer base located?

RP: Well, 75 to 80 percent of my customers are local. I’ve figured that out through observation — the main giveaway is Sunday. On Sundays, you don’t have commuters zipping up and down Sunrise Boulevard; the main customers are the people who live right here. On Sunday, our sales are always 20 to 25 percent lower than a normal weekday.

What do you think of the latest gas tax increase in California? Does that impact your business?

RP: It doesn’t affect the business, because like any other tax we pass it right through to the customer. But I’m a customer myself. I’m all about good roads, but I’d like to see that gas tax money being spent on fixing those roads.

What do you think of electric cars? Do they threaten your business?

RP: I think they’re great. They’re super cool. They can’t always drive far though. There is currently a wave of gas stations installing charging stations. For that expense, I don’t think I’ll do it until the electric cars become more popular. I don’t see them as becoming a threat to my industry — at least in my lifetime.

Do you own the Carl’s Jr. at the corner too?

RP: This Carl’s Jr. is currently owned by a large franchisee. When I first initiated contact with Carl’s Jr. about putting a restaurant in this lot, it was owned by the actual CKE Restaurant Incorporated… The Pastor’s family owns the entire lot though. There’s three separate parcels totalling three acres.

On the front of the convenience store, etched in stone, is a Bible verse. Could you share the story behind that?

RP: That was my Dad’s. It says, “With God, all things are possible.” I had an Christian upbringing, but my Dad has a good faith. I’ll tell him, “Dad, this is happening, or, this is going on…” He’ll always say, “The Lord will provide. I put all my faith in Him, and He always provides a paycheck.” I always feel like it’s not that easy, but he’s a real true believer, even to this day.

Besides running your business, what do you like to do in your free time?

RP: Being an auto mechanic is hard on your body. I love to play golf — that is, I used to love to play golf — but then my body said, “No more,” so I’ve had to find other things to do. I’m definitely afraid of heights, but over the past couple of years I’ve been working on getting a pilot’s license. Doing that at over 50 with a fear of heights is pretty crazy, but I wanted to conquer that fear. I really fell in love with flying.

What does the future look like for you?

RP:  You never know in business. You always plan for the worst and hope for the best.

I would like nothing better than my kids getting involved in running the business. My succession plan is to have my daughter and son-in-law come in and take over for us so that I can retire and they will basically assume the roles that my wife and I do now in the day-to-day operation.

I would like to see my grandkids dusting things and stocking shelves in the store, when they become of age and can do what I did working with my dad at age 12.

Randy Pastor, 53, currently resides in Granite Bay with his wife. The couple have two daughters and four granddaughters.

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