Whenever I see an attractive abandoned old filling station—and believe me, there’s a sizable herd of them scattered across the country!—ideas for restoring it to life as a business again unfailingly pour through my mind. A used bookstore? Coffee shop or bakery—or a tea store featuring local artists and authors beside the tea? A welcome center like the one in Webb City and another in Baxter Springs, Kansas? A sweet vintage apparel and homegoods shop, or maybe a garden supply store? A little deli that serves lunch in a few booths by the windows and out front beneath the canopy—or maybe a sushi restaurant! While the old filling stations are often smallish, to my mind, that’s a bonus, and the possibilities for the stations’ revivals as successful businesses are nearly endless.
Though I come from a long line of entrepreneurs, in sharing my photographs of abandoned filling stations with others, I’ve learned I’m far from the only one who sees great promise in the often charming little buildings, like the one above from Missouri. Many have offered their own suggestions or shared dreams of their own, all of which involve saving the existing building by sprucing it up—and why not? Old gas stations are often charming—almost cottage-y, like the one above—or adorned with nods to Moderne or Art Deco styling; out West, they have a definite southwestern architectural flair, often in Mission Revival or Pueblo.
Even in their neglected state, these filling stations attract admirers; if their weatherbeaten exteriors alone are enough to do this, how much more so if travellers can stop in for a coffee, a few fresh cookies, a good sandwich, or a magazine or newspaper?
That said, one thing that keeps many folks from making the leap to buying such a station and turning into a thriving small business is the fear of what might be lying beneath in the underground storage tank—and horrifically expensive cleanup should it leak or be leaking. Such huge costs could put a business down before the doors even open.
Well, Missourians with an eye and a hope set upon such a station can cheer: the state is going to work on cleaning up vintage abandoned filling stations along the Mother Road to encourage
such improvements while also saving the historic stations from disappearing into the brush, as many have already:
The State of Missouri is tracking abandoned gas stations all along Route 66. Researchers made a map of what they’ve found so far in the Ozarks.
…Missouri wants to identify some of those old sites for possible cleanups and pave the way for redevelopment. The City of Springfield is thinking about the issue, too, letting dreamers like Powell know they’re not alone.
“That’s really the key: feeling that what they do is going to be built on, and not an island,” said Vern Morgan, principal planner for the City of Springfield.
Missouri has budgeted just under $100,000 for the project, which should cover two station clean-ups. Despite some nosing around online, I couldn’t find more information about this and whether or not it is a long-term project—say, cleaning up a couple of stations a year—or a “let’s try this then wait and see what happens” sort of thing—much less whether or not it is something people can donate towards.
It seems to me that cleaning up the tanks and thus making the buildings themselves safer for entrepreneurs to buy and re-open as viable small businesses is a great way to grow local economies—and let’s face it, considering the potential environmental implications of leaking tanks, this might have to be done regardless; might as well do so where buildings remain so people have the opportunity to make a job for themselves and perhaps others.
Be sure to head over to the Ky3.com page to watch a good video about the plans. What do you think? And when you see an abandoned filling station…do you imagine snapping it up and starting some kind of business there?