BETHESDA - Joel Braido's old-time gas station display - complete with original signs, gas pumps and vehicles - appears so authentic that out-of-towners will periodically stop in looking to purchase fuel.
Once they realize it is a display and Braido's hobby, they can't help but take a closer look at the hundreds of items the Bethesda resident has collected during the past 30 years. The faux station, which Braido sets up during warmer weather months starting in April, is located beside his home and business, Braido Memorials, along Ohio 147.
''I had one guy stop to see how much an oil change was,'' he said.
Photos by Shelley Hanson
Bethesda resident Joel Braido stands with a favorite old Sinclair gas station pump, one of the many in his collection he uses to display a faux gas station during warm weather.
After one enters the property's driveway, the large Sinclair station sign that features a green dinosaur as its logo is hard to miss. During high school, Braido worked at one of the local gas stations in Bethesda. Many years later, he purchased four old stations after their closures, renovating and then renting the buildings to new businesses. He kept whatever memorabilia and advertising was left over.
''I go to the occasional auction, but usually somebody tells me about an older individual who wants to sell,'' said Braido, noting local residents and others enjoy stopping to look and he encourages people to do so.
''People like reliving yesterday,'' said Braido, a 1979 graduate of Union Local High School.
Braido's favorite items are the green and white Sinclair pumps, one of which brags that it has ''Power X: the Super Fuel.'' That same pump's price per gallon stopped at 51 cents. The other Sinclair pump describes its fuel as ''Dino gasoline'' and stopped at 33 cents per gallon.
''I've had local photographers bring in high school students - they like to pose with the old-time cars,'' he said.
Braido, a lifelong resident of Bethesda, said he feels an obligation to give back to the community that has supported him his entire life. This is why he chose to purchase and renovate the old gas stations and preserve the local historic items. And though he describes his automotive-related hobby as a passion, he said it also serves to help lighten the mood, however briefly, for people who are choosing gravestones for their deceased loved ones at his business.
Older residents particularly enjoy seeing Sinclair items because they remember when the stations were in operation, he said.
''I try to keep it authentic. There are a lot of reproductions out there of no value,'' Braido said. ''It's a passion I have. I'm always looking, but for nothing in particular. I like signage more than anything.''
Braido once owned a funeral home service but sold it recently. He started out mowing the grass at the funeral home, then owned by the Kemp family, when he was teenager. After receiving his business degree from Ohio University, Braido came back home and eventually purchased the service after receiving his funeral director license. Now his sole business is building and selling monuments and mausoleums.
''I've been very, very blessed all this year to be able to work in the community I grew up in,'' Braido said.