By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller
Pam Kern, affectionately known as the “Queen of 114” from her decades long helm at the Harbor Heights Service Station in Sag Harbor, resigned from her position on Saturday morning following a change of ownership at the gas station.
Her resignation prompted Harbor Heights neighbor Kristina Gale to create a Facebook page in honor of Kern, where many residents lamented her departure, and wished her the best. But others used the space to lash out at the new owner of the station, Greg Miller, who has owned the adjoining Sag Harbor Service Station since 2009 and was tapped by Harbor Heights owner John Leonard to take over the station.
According to Leonard, the change in ownership of the gas station will not change ownership of the Route 114 property and he will continue to move forward with a proposal, now before the Village of Sag Harbor, to incorporate a convenience store at the gas station.
On Monday, both Leonard and Miller stressed that Kern was in no way let go from the position she held for over 30 years, but that it was a choice she made when Miller was unable to meet her demands about salary and hours.
“I didn’t expect anyone to pay her what I did,” said Leonard. “Truth be told, I didn’t make any money pumping gas there. It was natural for Greg to take over and I warned Pam for months there was going to be some kind of change at the station.”
“No one was looking to hurt Pam,” he said.
“This is not what I wanted,” added Miller. “It would have only benefitted us to have Pam stay on. I have done everything I can.”
After declining comment on Monday, on Tuesday morning, Kern said she was devastated by the turn of events, mostly because she did not find out for certain what was happening until Friday, when a county representative brought new paperwork detailing the new management at the station.
Kern said she was only officially informed on Saturday about the change in ownership, and not by Leonard, but Miller. After she discovered her hours and pay would not be what Kern felt she needed to continue to support herself, she said she left, only to return later to pick up her things.
“I don’t know what I am going to do,” she said on Tuesday. “I am just trying to get my house together right now. I haven’t really been home for four years. I put my heart and soul into that place.”
Kern was pleased so many had reached out to her, at home and via Facebook, to wish her well.
“Everyone has been so kind and supportive, I really appreciate it,” she said.
On Monday, Gale said while some comments turned nasty on the Friends of Pam Kern Facebook page, she only intended it to be a place for residents to show their care for a woman who pumped gas for them and told them stories for decades.
“I just wanted her to know a lot of the community cares for her, because I don’t think she even realizes how important she has been,” said Gale. “She has supported the Wounded Warriors, the food pantry and so many others. I wanted her to know she was appreciated.”
“Pam, I hope your future is as bright and fun as you are,” wrote Eileen Hurley. “You are the best!”
“Pam delighted our children and grandchildren for years as she waved enthusiastically in her Easter Bunny costume as we passed the station,” added Louise Green.
“When I first moved here and got lost every time I went to Sag Harbor this woman could not be nicer giving me directions and it always took me aback because it was so unexpected,” wrote Laura Perotti. “And the girls just loved she was a woman working in a gas station. We need more nice people!”