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Since 1976, Gunther Duy and Ralph Barone have gotten to know just about everyone in the Middle Village and Rego Park communities through their small service center on Woodhaven Boulevard — but at the end of the month, the duo will retire.

According to Duy, the longtime business partners will walk away from the Gunral Service Center when their lease is up on Feb. 28. Duy and Barone are truly embedded in the community: both grew up in the area, and over the 42 years they have been in business, their customers have included multiple generations from local families. Duy said having customers that trust them is what allowed them to continue working for this long.

“It was a lot easier years ago,” Duy said. “Now you have to, like any other business, be very conscious of cost and inventory and dependent on return customers.”

A combination of factors led to the decision to retire, Duy said, including the fact that he is 68 years old and the time feels right. There is also Barone’s two-hour commute from Commack, New York, every day and the rising costs of running a business that is constantly changing with the industry.

Gunral Service Center is operated by Duy and Barone, but the land is owned by Alliance Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Global Partners LP. In 2015, Global Partners completed an acquisition of 97 Mobil- and Exxon-branded gas stations in New York and Maryland, which included Gunral Service Center. Duy said that they have had to pay more fees to Global since the acquisition on top of the rent for their lease.

Duy also cited changes in consumer habits as a challenge to the business. With a wide array of parts available on the internet for lower prices, Duy said that customers often purchase their own parts online and bring them to the shop rather than have Duy and Barone decide which parts to get.

While Duy said he has plenty of things he can do to stay busy in retirement, he admitted that he has been too tied up with the move-out process to think about it. He also has to break the news to all of his longtime customers when they stop by.

“Everyone that comes in is heartbroken,” Duy said. “They had so much faith in us and relied on us for so many years. You grow a lasting relationship and its hard to break away. I’m working on customers’ grandkids’ cars.”

Duy said that the service center will continue to operate under new leadership once they leave. Global Partners has not yet returned a request for comment about how the station will be managed as of March 1.

QNS will update this story as those details become available.

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