Jacob Menard is a lanky 25-year-old who works for his uncle Gerald at Amazing Lock Service. He sports a stainless steel post through his right eyebrow, a number of tattoos, and an understated blue stocking cap advertising Cresco, a Chicago medical marijuana dispensary.
The young man drives a gray 2013 Volkswagen Passat. On Monday, he contrived to get the car’s gas tank filled without the vehicle ever leaving its parking space behind his uncle’s shop at 3165 N. Halsted Street.
This feat was achieved through Yoshi Inc., a new automobile fill-up and maintenance service that began operating last year in Atlanta, Austin, Nashville, Los Angeles and San Francisco, expanding into Chicago on Feb. 1.
They approached me to cover their launch last week. I asked if I could instead see an average customer.
“You do have customers, right?” I said.
I expected a corporate lawyer having his Land Rover topped off in a downtown office building parking garage while he racked up the billable hours.
I didn’t expect a fresh-faced kid who works as a service technician and sings hip-hop on the side. Why would a guy like that pay $20 a month for a service to deliver gasoline to his car? (the first month is free) charging the average per gallon rate AAA is reporting that day? What’s wrong with gas stations?
“With the weather, I don’t want to leave my car on low gas sitting there,” said Menard. “And my girlfriend goes to use it and she has to go to the gas station. That’s the main reason I’ve been using it.”
So love is involved?
“Yeah, love is involved,” he laughed. “The caring.”
Amazing Lock is, coincidentally, two blocks south of Yoshi’s Cafe, which is not connected to the fuel service.
The landmark French-Asian restaurant is named for founding chef Yoshi Katsumura. The fill-up start up is named for the Nintendo video game character, a sort of bulbous-nosed dragon.
“Yoshi is the character everyone kind of loves,” said Bryan Frist, who started the company in 2015 with two partners “We’re the happy good company coming in, fighting the established system.”
Gas stations seemed ripe for reinvention.
“We knew we wanted to start something,” said Frist. “We were looking at all different industries, when we looked at gas station model. Nothing changed in over 100 years. People are still pulling their Model T over and filling up, late to a meeting, or worried about safety. There are a lot of pain points.”
Having Yoshi do the pumping is certainly painless. Jacob and I were chatting in Amazing Lock.
“I make music. I’m recording an album. I already released one last year.
What do you play?
Rock’s kinda dead now.
“I like incorporating rock. The nice little guitar riffs.”
His phone chimed. Yoshi was out back.
We walked out into the bitter cold to find a white F-150 pick up with “YOSHI FUEL DELIVERY” on the side and driver Miguel Anzo.
“Some people, they got busy schedules,” Anzo said. “I’ve done a lot of teachers, doctors, lawyers. They basically tell me they don’t have the time available. Some people just don’t like to go to gas stations.”
Which reminded Jacob of something.
“The other day I was on a job, this lady got her purse stolen she was at the gas station when she went to fill up, they hopped in her car and stole her purse and ran,” he said, mentioning his 2-year-old. “It made me think of my daughter; with her in the car and someone hops in. I don’t want that situation to arise.”
The pump thrummed, 13.7 gallons of gas. The truck holds two 100 gallon-tanks, 87 and 93 octane, but can do special requests.
“This morning I did a BMW X-6, new engine. the guy requested premium,” Anzo said. “He actually came out. He had a little dipstick. He checked the gas. He had to be a scientist or something. I never seen that.”
The economy is always in motion, and that can lead to odd contrasts. You can’t go to most gas stations and hope an attendant there will pump your gas for you. But now someone will come to your home and do it.