Craig Larsen of West Bend walks back to his home
carrying items he purchased at the Mobile gas station
seen behind him Friday morning in West Bend.
John Ehlke / Conley Media
BEND — The saying “less is more,” coupled with a desire
to spread a positive message, inspired one gas station
owner to use her message board in a new way.
Jolene Blair, owner of the Mobil Gas Station on Main
Street in West Bend, recently changed one side of her
sign to display the word “smile.”
“I wanted to reach out to the public and do something
for people,” Blair said. As a business owner, she
experiences customers at their best and worst, and
wanted to address those who come into her store in a bad
“Everybody is just so gloomy, so I wanted to put
something positive up there, but I didn’t want to offend
anyone,” she said. “I just wanted it to be short and
simple and hoped I could make someone’s day brighter and
make more people smile.”
Blair said the idea came to her out of the blue — prior
to the change, the sign posted beer sales and specials.
“Hopefully they see us as a friendly place to go and
know we care,” she said. “Around the holidays people
write “Merry Christmas” or “Happy New Year,” so I wanted
to put a quote or even just a word to make people
Making a difference
Since the swap, Blair and her employees have collected
stories about people’s reactions.
“It’s made a difference, for sure,” Blair said. “People
come in and say, ‘hey look, I’m smiling,’ so it’s done
A few customers were so surprised by the positive
message they had to stop and ask for clarification.
“A couple people asked if there was supposed to be
something more up there, so I asked them if they were
smiling, and then they were,” she said.
Once she had the idea for an inspirational message
board, Blair gathered her employees to brainstorm ideas
for their inaugural message.
“‘Smile’ was actually more than one suggestion,” she
said, which may have been encouraged by her rule that
the winner be the employee who changes the board.
“That employee has to fix the board, because it’s really
hard to change,” she said. The cold temperatures make
the board freeze, so the letters don’t stick very well
and changing them becomes a chore.
“It’s been so cold here, and I was on my honeymoon for
two weeks,” she said. “This is our first vacation in 18
years. We never went on a honeymoon or anything because
we were working all the time, so we finally decided that
we’re getting older and it was time to go.”
It was shocking coming back from 85-degree weather in
St. Kitts, so her sign served as a reminder to herself
in addition to her customers.
This spontaneity likely lent itself to the creation of
the positive message board, and may help with future
But until the numbers on the thermometer increase, the
sign will continue to encourage the community to smile,
probably for another month, Blair said. In the winter,
her goal is to share a new message every other month. As
that date approaches, she said, she’ll get everyone
together once again to decide on the next inspirational
“If I wanted to go out and change it now, it would be
impossible,” she said, but she likes the message and
said others do too. So for now, the reminder to smile
will stay along with the cold weather.