Running dry

Josh Cohen reports in the Palos Verdes Peninsula News about the transformation of the one gasoline station serving a large neighborhood into a gasless auto repair shop:

One by one, customers pull their cars into the Miraleste Chevron station, point to the chain-link fence surrounding its gas pumps and ask owner Greg Streeter what’s going on.

It’s tough for Streeter, who has owned the business since 1981, to tell people that the station will no longer sell gas as it has to generations of motorists but is instead now concentrating on automobile repair.

This is happening all over Palos Verdes. The oil companies are telling their franchisees to close down auto repair bays and open up mini-marts instead.

“All the major oil companies are moving away from auto service,” (Streeter) says. “Their focus groups tell them that the mixture is stronger between gas and fast food, and away from gas and auto repair. Convenience is what people are looking for — you stop and get gas, use your ATM card, pick up snacks and drinks for the kids.”

Service Station.jpgWith a number of closures having taken place in 2004 and 2005, I think there are just 3 or 4 service stations left to cover about 26 square miles. Good news for tow-truck companies.

Palos Verdes might not be typical. Given the same choice, it appears franchisees elsewhere in Southern California have opted to dump auto repair to make way for Cheetos. Either way: It means a generation of Californians will grow up with no memory of the classic American “service station” which sold you gas but also changed your oil, rotated your tires and replaced your radiator.


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