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Ortons BP in Wadena closing Sept. 9

Customers fill the lanes at the Wadena Ortons BP Tuesday, Sept. 4. The store is set to close Sept. 9. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

It's been known for some time that Ortons BP in Wadena would be closing to make way for the reconstruction of Hwy 10. Nonetheless, news of the store closing Sept. 9 was still a shock to many.

Tuesday morning, traffic was steady as people filled up on coffee, breakfast and fresh petrol. Customers were treated to free coffee and cookies as a thanks for supporting the business, which has been going for over 40 years.

Tim Orton, current president of Ortons Oil, had personal ties to the Wadena station. It was where he got his start in the business and the community his grandmother lived.

"It's a sad day for us next Monday," Tim said as the store will be closed for business then. Work will continue to clear out inventory of the building.

He said thoughts of rerouting Hwy 10 were going on when he got the property in 1976. There was still talk about it in 1997 when the business underwent a major reconstruction. At that time MnDOT said that reconstruction was not in the 20-year plan. And 20 years later, it's time to say goodbye to the long standing business. At this time, the company has not found another property in Wadena to relocate to.

Ortons Oil had been negotiating the sale of the property with MnDOT for much of 2018. Vice President Frank Orton, a fourth-generation owner of the store chain, had said previously that the sale was not one they wanted to make, but MnDOT's plans to clear out buildings in 2018 still stands in order for reconstruction of the highway to begin in spring of 2019.

Orton said just a month ago that it was unclear when they might have to exit the property. More recently he found out that MnDOT would like to take possession of the property by mid September. He'll be handing over keys to the property next week.

Tim Orton and his son Frank both said they are very appreciative of the employees that have stuck with Ortons BP for many years and shared how thankful they are that many are sticking with the business in the final days in order to take inventory of the business and clear out the store.

"I'm truly thankful to all the employees and patrons," Frank Orton said.

Ortons has had a gas station in Wadena since 1976, when Tim and Kathryn, newly married and just out college, moved to Minnesota and started a bulk oil and gas station business there, according to the company website. Tim said the property was formerly Ted's Roost. Building the convenience store and car wash, which took up the block between Hwy 10 and the railroad, was not cheap but proved to be a very good location for them.

The Ortons said there are a few employees that planned to relocate to other locations. Nearby Ortons are in Motley and Sebeka. The Ortons in Staples closed in 2018. Tim said the Staples location was a good one for them until Hwy 10 was relocated to go around the downtown. In all there are about 15 Orton locations in the region.

While Tim said it probably made the most sense to remove businesses to the south of Hwy 10, as there are fewer businesses, it's still not an easy move to make for the long-standing business.

"It probably made more sense," Tim said. "But I don't particularly like it."

The Ortons encourage patrons to stop in to see the staff before the store closes for good.