Go With the Flow

By on July 6, 2010
RoadKing Mag

The birch bark canoe hanging overhead at the entrance to the Portage Petro is no mere decoration. The vessel reflects the area’s rich history as a transportation hub. “We had the canoe specially made by a Minnesota craftsman who does reproductions for the Minnesota Historical Society,” says owner Jim Goetz. “It represents the trade transportation of the past carrying on and blending into the trade transportation of today — which is trucking.”

Portage sits between two rivers. The Wisconsin flows south to the Mississippi, and the Fox runs north into the St. Lawrence. That made it a stopping point for early settlers and Native Americans who were transferring from one river to the other with goods or supplies. The name, Portage, comes from the French word meaning “to carry.”

Today trucks carrying loads find the area just as central to their travels, and the Petro offers far more comforts and luxuries than an early settler might have even imagined.

“We have 15 team players who have been with our organization for 20 years or longer, and more than 30 percent who have been here for at least 10 years,” says Goetz, who can be found onsite every day along with his brother Greg. “They enjoy our customers and understand the lifestyle that they live. That means that they will always give a heartfelt greeting, but they can also tell if a driver is feeling under pressure, and it’s not the time for small talk. Then they get them in and out as efficiently as possible.”

Say cheese
When the Goetz family first opened the Portage Petro 24 years ago, drivers asked them for the foodstuff Wisconsin is famous for — cheese. Since the goal from the start was to please the customer, the location installed a Cheese Deli. In addition to blocks of cheese, it offers bratwurst, German sausages and fresh sandwiches.

A family business
“I am here and my brother Greg is here every day,” says Jim Goetz. “We bring personal service and a quality and caring that you can expect from a family business.”

Rig recognition
Experience makes a difference. At the truck service center, the technicians have been there long enough to know their customers by name, ask after the family, pets and travels. Most important, they know the truck and how the driver likes it to be serviced.

On the desk
Kaye Pare greets each truck service center visitor with a smile. “Why be in a crabby mood?” she reasons. “I’m a happy person and I enjoy my job.” After seven years at the Portage Petro, she understands that the drivers coming in after hours on the road need someone to talk to for a while and she’s happy to oblige. “If need be, I’ve given hugs,” she admits.

More about the canoe
The Goetz family takes the birch bark canoe out on the water every few years.

“Not just because it’s fun to get out on the river,” Goetz says. “If you don’t use it, the canoe will dry out and fall apart.”

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