Cash Mob a hit at Alvin Frye’s Exxon Station
By Mike Steely
There were so many people coming by Alvin Frye’s Exxon Station Saturday that you’d think it was a going away party, but Alvin isn’t going anywhere.
The 91 year old said that he and the new landowners have reached an agreement that will allow him to stay, month to month, as long as he wishes. There had been some fear that the station might be forced to close, or change brands, but Alvin told The Focus that he’ll be there and be pumping EXXON gas.
The event was a Cash Mob, organized by Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, who attended and helped pump gas. The filling station, located at 5306 Broadway in the heart of Fountain City, was busy with people coming in for gas, hoping that Mayor Burchett or Frye would be pumping. The occasional rain didn’t stop the cars pulling in for gas or to visit.
Many people came simply to wish Frye the best and out of loyalty to the very active man. Frye is an icon of North Knoxville, active with many causes including the Fountain City Lion’s Club, and the crowd came and chatted with him, some bringing memorabilia for him. A veteran of the Navy during the World War II and Korea, Frye is proud of his service and proud of his service station.
It isn’t often you find a business that has been open for nearly 60 years with the same owner. Frye operated service stations before the current location but has been at Broadway and Essary Road, next to Litton’s Restaurant, for 24 years.
Frye isn’t just the owner; he’s also the manager. He was concerned before the lease agreement was completed about his five employees but is happy to come to an agreement.
“Your margin of profit is so low in this type of business and I’ve got five men I’ve got to pay to give service here,” Frye told The Focus. The station doesn’t sell lottery tickets or beer and offers the type of traditional gas pumping attendants that is all but forgotten at filling stations.
During our conversation outside Mayor Burchett came up.
“Alvin, you’ve got a cash payer,” he said, explaining that he doesn’t know how the transaction would work. Frye went inside and worked with the customer. He had very little time for business during the day due to the number of people who wanted to talk with him, but he had many volunteers and employees helping out.
“I want to get a picture of you and the mayor,” was a common request and both men granted every request.
One of the visitors came by driving a Mayberry Sheriff’s Squad Car and Alvin posed behind the car with a gas hose, but Alvin got much more attention than the car. Another visitor was Ralph Long, a retired EXXON gas truck driver and old friend of Frye.
“I’ve know Alvin since 1959,” he said, recalling stories of driving the gas truck before the interstates were built. The construction of I-640 actually uprooted Alvin Frye from his gas station which was where the Broadway and I-640 is now located, that’s when he moved up the road to the present location of his well-known filing station.
Inside the station, in his small office, Frye was looking through the many things people had dropped off during the Cash Mob. There was a photo of Alvin in his Navy uniform, seated with his wife; there were metals brought by other veterans, a book of Navy ships, and many other gifts.
The Cash Mob ebbed and flowed but a crowd was always there, along with television stations and newspaper reporters. The mayor did very little politicking because, as Mayor Burchett said, the day was all about Alvin Frye and the historic Fountain City Exxon Service Station.