Owner of the Atascadero 76 gas station, Don Giessinger has seen and been part of the many changes that have come to our small town. Giessinger moved to the Central Coast from Los Angeles in the mid-’70s, back when the population hovered around 10,000 and the only traffic light in town sat at the corner of El Camino and Traffic Way. Giessinger’s station sits a stone’s throw away from one the busiest intersections in town, El Camino Real and Morro Road, a spot that used to be governed by a simple stop sign.
Giessinger started his career as a business owner of a furniture store in Los Angeles. From furniture, he moved into the restaurant industry with the purchase of the A&W restaurant and eventually bought the lot next door to A&W and created a gas station.
“My father was in the furniture business,” Giessinger said. “I worked for him and learned the business and then opened up my own store.”
Giessinger purchased the property that had formerly been a gas station run by a Texas corporation. He said that the City helped him a great deal in the finalization and approval of placing a new gas station at the site. Then-mayor Ray Johnson and the Atascadero Chamber of Commerce drafted a letter to the California State Water Board requesting approval of the station.
“They really did help a lot in making the process go a lot faster,” Giessinger said.
Originally, Giessinger partnered with Tesoro but after his contract expired he decided to go with the trustworthy and recognizable name of 76.
Giessinger said when owning a business that does not have a lot of inherent diversity — all gas stations are technically selling the same gas and convenience items — a way to stand apart from the competition is cleanliness and kindness.
“When it comes to gas stations, everybody has the same thing pretty much,” Giessinger said. ”So how you are going to get more business is to have clean bathrooms and a clean store.”
2019 celebrates the 18-year anniversary for the gas station and at the time of this article, Giessinger said that he was currently negotiating another 10-year contract with the parent company. He also said that he and the City are discussing the possibility of creating a few electric car charging stations on or near his property.
After owning and operating small businesses for decades, Giessinger said that he is looking forward to moving into semi-retirement. He said that one of his favorite pastimes is road trips where he and his wife explore the great American highways and byways and of course visit his four grandchildren along the way.
Don turned 76 this year. Tell him happy birthday when you see him!