Faces in the Crowd: Andrew Reid

By Aaron Michell
Correspondent

Andrew Reid is the assistant manager for the Shell gas station in downtown Marion. In his role, he has a lot of responsibilities; he has a lot of corporate duties that he’s held accountable for. His top priority, however, is making people smile.
In his role, he makes sure his fellow employees prioritize what’s important at the gas station. And priority number one is always customer service.

Andrew Reid, the assistant manager at the Shell  gas station in Marion.

Andrew Reid, the assistant manager at the Shell
gas station in Marion.

To Andrew, customer service means bringing a positive attitude; it means going out of your way to be helpful; it means putting a smile on your customer’s faces.
Andrew knows all about customer service, and he knows about business. He’s studied it – at Kellogg Community College, Mid-Michigan Community College, and at Baker College. But he’s also studied it through the eyes of his hometown of Marion.
The Shell gas station, the hub of downtown Marion, has served as the center of commerce for many locals throughout the years. And for the last 18 years, Andrew has been right there in the thick of it, helping put a smile on locals’ faces.
That’s part of his job description. But he’s much more than just an assistant manager at Shell. He’s also the son of Norma Jean and Darwin. He’s also the brother of Dan, Darwin Jr., and Betsy. He’s also a friend to many who know him as “The Bear.”
Recently, we caught up with Andrew and his longtime friend, Bridget Seales. We had a conversation about life and everything in-between. What we found is that Andrew is so much more than just another face in the crowd.

Marion Press: Who is Andrew Reid?
Andy: I graduated in 2001 from Marion. I switched a lot of schools when I was younger. But I’m from Marion. My dad’s from Battle Creek and my mom’s from Cadillac. So, I have a wide diversity of country and city life, growing up. I was down there in the summers with my dad, and during school I was up here with my mom. All-in-all I’m a momma’s boy though.

MP: What were things like growing up?
Andy: One of my first jobs ever was working for Godfrey Chevrolet up in Cadillac. And while I was working there, I was also going to CTC for marketing and distributing. So that really tipped me off on wanting to get into marketing and advertising as a career.
After Godfrey, I got a job in retail at BP – at what’s now the Beacon and Bridge on M-115 – and then I decided that I wanted to go work in Marion. So, I got a job at Jiffy in Marion.
[At Jiffy] Brian Swiler was my boss. I was kind of like his little protégé. He cared about the community. I saw how much he cared and I wanted to run with it. He was my mentor: he taught me how to approach customer service; he taught me how to treat customers, how to treat locals. He had me going out and pumping gas for the elderly. I learned a lot from that man.
After that I worked for the Shell. Suzanne [Richter] gave me a chance at the Shell. I was still young. And I’ve worked at the Shell on and off for about 18 years now.
And in that time, I’ve left and done other jobs. But I got my priorities in line and I realized that I love this job – because of my community. I love doing my job in my community.

MP: And what kept you busy in-between?
Andy: I left Shell to go to Murphy’s [Wal-Mart of Cadillac] twice. I went through a lot. I’m gay, and so I went 34 years being in the closet with that. So, I had a lot of issues spring up, in my life.
Bridget: I don’t know how you’d put it. He did a lot of job-hopping, job-switching, and there were a lot of things that went into his decision-making. He’s been to Kellogg Community College, he’s been to Mid, he’s been to Baker College; he’s ‘this’ close to having his business degree. He wrote a cover letter for his current position with Schmuckal Oil, and he talked about how important the community is to him, and how he prides himself on customer service. And then you read the company mission statement and it’s basically everything that he put into his cover letter.
Andy: I’ve been working 60 to 70 hours a week as an assistant manager here at Shell. I genuinely care about the Shell. My job is more than a job: it’s a career. Schmuckal [Oil Co.] owns more than 26 stores in Michigan. With Schmuckal, I can further my education and further my opportunities. Financially, I get paid pretty well.

MP: What do you enjoy about working at the Shell?
Andy: I love my people; I love my community. I’m a people-person.
Bridget: He likes to make people smile. If someone’s having a bad day, he loves to make them smile. “I just had the nicest gas clerk,” they’ll say. And he loves that.
Andy: I loved living in Marion. I moved quite frequently when I was younger – I went to live in Baltimore with my dad for a year and I wasn’t having it. But I loved going to Marion School, I really did.
I could pretty much do what I wanted, but I was a good kid. I hung out with Bridget and Tony [Stancato] and Dusty Blackledge. I mean, that was our click. I had a really good childhood, growing up. We used to walk around; we’d love to go to the Marion Party Store and grab a pop. My mom used to work at Bronk’s [Restaurant; now the Flashback] and so I’d go down there and have her make me a burger, and I’d sit on that little bridge over the Middle Branch that used to be between Bronk’s and the Motel and sit down and eat my burger.
And I loved having our football games downtown. They used to do the homecoming floats all the way downtown and they’d come right into the fairgrounds.
Bridget: He always had to cruise town.
Andy: It used to be a blinker light. Cruising town, sitting in the Dart parking lot. I wouldn’t want authorities to know what we were doing in the Dart parking lot, but it was fun.
Mr. Nettles, he was a town cop. One day I was cruising town and he was walking the streets of Marion – he’d walk sometimes instead of being in his cruiser – and he flagged me down, and got in my car and asked me, “Why do you just cruise from All-Vehicle Sales to Shananjacs?”
And I didn’t have a good answer. I just told him that I’d get antsy. I’m a people-person and if I’m cruising town, I’ll just see somebody and find something to do.
Bridget: No gas, no gas money. “Oh, I’ll just cruise town” – that was his attitude. And his mom would give him gas money too, because she knew he had to get out of the house.

Andrew and his family.

Andrew and his family.

MP: Where did you grow up?
Andy: I grew up on First Street. When I was about nine years old I moved into the Marion Apartments and that’s when I met all my friends: Jeff Miller, Nate Pifer, all those guys. There was a bunch of us who grew up in the Marion Apartments. So, the Marion Apartments is kind of where it all began as far as the Marion community. My mom was a single mom and had four kids.
That’s where my mom met my step-dad, Ken Bazuin. And I’d invite people over for coffee without her knowing. She’d be like, “What are you doing in my house?!?!” I was just one of those kids.
Bridget: Still is. He’s just a people-person.

MP: Two years ago, you came out as a gay, Christian man. What has that experience been like?
Andy: I am a Christian. And the God who I worship and praise, I cannot believe that he would not want me to feel the way I am right now. That’s as simple as I could put it.
Bridget: He became so much happier. He was out there.
Andy: I live how I am now. I can’t explain it. Unless you’re in that situation, you can’t really explain it. I had so much cooped up inside me for all those years and it all came out at once, as soon as I came out. It’s been two years almost to the day.
My step-dad, Ken, he’s been one of my biggest supporters. My mom, my dad. My sister Betsy, they’ve all been supportive.
Now I can live open and I love my life. I’m not conceited. Everybody seems to care for me, but I think it’s because I care for them. Anybody who’s feeling down on Facebook, I’m the first one to snap a personal message: hey, I’m here for you. I had a support group with my turmoil through everything, so I use that in everyday situations to help out other people too.

MP: And at the Shell, a lot of people are counting on you to help them out.
Andy: The Shell is the center of Marion – that’s where people come to gather. Now we have tables and chairs in there and I love it. I don’t want to know about all the drama: who’s with who, or all the town gossip – I don’t really care for all that. I have so much corporate mumbo-jumbo that goes on daily that I don’t have time to deal with all of that.

MP: And the Shell seems to just keep growing.
Andy: We have a pizza place; we have double the amount of space. We have triple the inventory at least. I cannot wait for next summer because we have a lot of big things planned. [Store Manager] Melanie and I make a good team.
I had a teacher in CTC once tell me, “Well, if you don’t do this, you’ll end up flipping burgers at McDonalds.” Well, you know what? For some people, McDonalds is a good job. You know, I might just be a gas station assistant manager, but I love what I do. And I make a good living doing what I do. I’m not unemployed; I get my 40 hours a week. People can say: “Well that’s just a gas station job.” Well, yeah, but it’s all about how you look at it. If you’re looking at it as a job to get you somewhere else, well yeah, I get that – to you it’s just another job. But if you love doing what you do, and you do a good job at it, there will always be opportunities to keep moving up.

MP: It sounds like you enjoy your job?
Andy: I love it. I love it. I love walking in there. I love that Melanie and I choose the employees together. We’re like a giant family. We have nothing but a positive environment in there, and I tell them from the get-go: we maintain a positive environment. If you have a problem, come see us. But do not spread negativity in the workplace, because that’s how things don’t get done.
I have to have roller-grill stuff on for the Pollington Machine guys at 7. I love serving my community. I’ll have guys call me and go, “Hey, could you put those pepper-jack things on the grill for me, I’ll be there in ten.” I love that part of the job. I love serving my community. I really do.
Our biggest problem right now is lines and coffee. But we’re fixing that.
Overall, I love it. I love where I live – I don’t want to live anywhere else. I love Marion. I’m from here.

MP: Who have been your mentors, growing up?
Andy: My dad, Darwin Reid. He was drafted in Vietnam. He went to college at age 45, and he got his LPN, and then his RN. And he worked his way through, after the war. And he was always here for us kids. Even though he was downstate, he was there for us. Kudos for that – I always had him in my life. He bettered himself and he retired out of the VA just a few years ago.
My stepdad, Ken, I’ve always looked up to him. He was a lumberjack. He worked for an outfit out of Cadillac – JB and Sons – they’re no longer in business, but I’d ride with him to work. I learned a lot from Ken: he taught me the hillbilly way – hunting, fishing, all of that. I’d ride in the truck with him; we’d get stuck. And Ken knew everybody in town – him and Ike Eisenhower knew everybody. Ike was his best friend. I’d ride with those two everywhere. They were in the community going to people’s houses and helping them. You need a tree cut? We’ll be there. You need a tow? We’ll help you out. I loved being around my stepdad.
When it comes down to it, I am a momma’s boy. Norma Jean. A lot of people in the community know her. She’s the pie lady – she used to make wedding cakes, birthday cakes. She still makes the best sugar cookies. She’s an amazing woman.

MP: How do you keep such a positive attitude?
Andy: I wasn’t the best version of myself until I came out. I had a lot of issues. I wasn’t the person I am now. It was almost as if I had the wool pulled over my eyes, and the public finally knew who I really was. In fact, that’s exactly how it was: it was, okay, I’m gay, let’s move on.
I was a big part of my church in Cadillac. I used to serve three times a week in Cadillac at Res Life Church. The first time I went was on a Wednesday night, and it was on 13th Street then. There were only about 70 people who went there when I first went – it was the coolest church that I had ever been to in my entire life. I gave myself to the lord, and I got baptized, and I don’t regret any of it.
All I have to say about that – and I’ve told people this – I know what the bible says, but I know how I’m feeling right now, and how can the bible say no to that? I’m more comfortable in my skin than I’ve ever been in my entire life.

MP: So God is important in your life?
Andy: Very. I pray every day. I have a continuous conversation with God. I’ve learned humility from God. I’ve learned grace. There’ve been days where I’ve wanted to just let go, but I’ve learned certain things through Jesus Christ. I understand what it says in the bible. But I also understand what I’m feeling right now. And right now, I would rather be dead than to not be who I am. That’s what I want people to realize. I get that there’s a book of rules. And that book of rules changed my life. I did what it said, and my life got better, but it wasn’t until I came out and realized that hey, this is who I am for real, that I never felt so comfortable with my life.
I can’t believe the God that I believe in, wouldn’t want me to feel this way.




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