Thurmond’s celebrated a grand opening in Anchor Point on Monday, the event signaling two big changes. First, the business is now owned by Dale and Elaine Griner. Second, its new name is Thurmond’s Far West Auto, a nod to Anchor Point’s claim as the most westerly highway point in North America.
Among those greeting well-wishers stopping by the Sterling Highway location was Vanita Thurmond, who, along with her husband, the late Clint Thurmond, opened the business in its current location in December 1968. The Griners also were on hand. Elaine Griner is the Thurmonds’ daughter. Joining them was Brandi Blauvelt, the Griners’ daughter and Thurmonds’ granddaughter.
In the 46-year history of the Anchor Point fuel, automotive repair and convenience business, it also was operated by the Thurmonds’ son, Bill. After Bill’s death in 2001, his wife, Rochelle, took over ownership. Vanita Thurmond has remained active in the business throughout the years; Elaine Griner also worked there.
“Now, we’ve purchased it from (Rochelle) and we’re going to continue to run it,” said Griner of taking over the business with her husband, Dale.
In preparation for the shift in ownership and the changes that brings, Thurmond’s closed for a month, beginning Dec. 31. The shop space will remain closed for now, with the possibility of reopening in the future.
“We’re open to leasing it as long as we can find the right person to do that,” said Griner.
By April, the installation of credit card dispensers should be complete so fuel — unleaded and highway diesel — will be available 24 hours a day.
A drive-through espresso window continues to make it possible for motorists to order and be served without having to get out of their vehicles.
“We feature Captain’s Coffee,” said Griner.
The inside convenience store area has been repainted and reorganized, allowing for more floor space. Customers can choose from snacks and a variety of beverages, with the Griners looking to expand their offerings.
A limited food license rules out selling sandwiches made on site. However, with summer’s influx of anglers who spend their days fishing, Griner said there are plans in the works so Thurmond’s can offer pre-made sandwiches.
As the business’s history can attest, the Thurmonds are long-time Kenai Peninsula residents. Vanita Loosli Thurmond came to Alaska from Idaho in 1951, living first with her family in a tent on the banks of the Anchor River before settling closer to Homer. The Loosli family eventually relocated to an 80-acre area they homesteaded at Anchor Point. Vanita and Clint, who was born and raised along the Yukon River, married in 1953.
Sometime around the mid 1960s, the roots of Thurmond’s Auto began taking shape as Clint and Vanita “worked out of a shop on their property for what had to be two or three years,” said Griner. They built at the current site in 1968, and operated there for 13 years before leasing it. Their son, Bill, took over the business prior to his death in 2001, at which time it passed to his wife, Rochelle.
“So now it’s going to be my daughter, my mother and me, and then our granddaughter (Mikylla) during the summer months, so it’s a true family operation,” said Griner.
Three rentals also are located on the property. Two are currently rented and Griner is considering offering daily, weekly or monthly rates on the available two-story, 520-square-foot cabin.
A new sign will be installed at the roadside business sometime this spring.
“I’m going to be putting in a new highway sign complete with an LED readout to advertise specials,” said Griner.