My grandfather, Phin Johnson, was a Standard Oil Company employee for many years in Seattle along with his brother Paul. In 1957 Phin decided to purchase his own gas station, so he moved to San Diego and opened Johnson’s Chevron in Mission Valley.
Back then, he was surrounded by dairy farms even though the gas station was situated in a place that would eventually be paved over by Interstate 8 and at the same time under the shadow of the Interstate 15 overpass.
When they began construction of I-8, Phin had to move. He opened a brand new Chevron gas station in the brand new community of Del Cerro. San Diego State University was right across the valley, but College Avenue hadn’t even been built yet so you had to detour around through the neighborhood if you wanted to get into Mission Valley or to SDSU.
In about 1974, Phin began his move to retirement, handing over the reigns to his son Jerry. Mark, Jerry’s son, came to help in the late 70′s as a teenager, along with all his brothers and sisters in various roles. Mark later began to help with management in the mid 80′s. Jerry began his retirement path in the early 90′s when Mark purchased the station.
In 1999, the writing was on the wall, the oil companies were pulling out of Franchise Agreements with dealers in all but a tiny handful of cases and were changing their business models in ways that drained profits from existing dealers. With fuel sales and profits so volatile, Mark sold the business and prepared to open in a new format, auto repair only, leaving the gas station and Del Cerro behind.
In 2001 AutoHaven opened on Knoxville Street near Mission Bay. Steady growth ensued and six years later we had to move again, to our current location right around the corner on Morena Blvd. Auto the Great Dane came to manage in 2011, and his little sister Car-Lee recently began her new career as a customer greeter.