While the retail petroleum industry isn’t considered glamorous, it has had a solid sense of style from the beginning.

While many don’t make the connection between retail petroleum and style, you’ll find plenty of color and uniqueness in its architecture, both inside and out.

It’s a subject the SSCS Blog has explored from time to time, yet there’s always something new to discover about the form of the industry’s buildings, whether it be a unique shape from the dawn of the industry, or a modern, studied layout that tweaks the flow-through of customers to improve their satisfaction.

You just have to know where to look.

American retailers are innovative marketers in general, and the sometimes over-the-top shapes and sizes of early gas stations were often designed and built to stand out and draw in customers—Marketing 101, really. With the science of procedures and uniform processes decades away, this led to an extremely broad variety of approaches and styles among retailers, which allowed each location to have its own unique look and feel to get people out of their cars to walk in. We always talk about how the convenience store industry in the United States reflects the popular culture of the time—even creating it to some extent. Gas station design is a case in point.

It wasn’t just unknown designers toiling in the background to create eye-catching facades, either. Something about the gas station managed to bring out the creativity in one of the most celebrated America architects of all time, Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1927, when our industry was just barely out of its infancy (and he was at the high point of his career), he designed a gas station of the future. The gas station as art. We think that’s kind of cool.

The Embassy Gulf Service Center in Washington, D.C. retains its original façade from the 1930’s, and when it was built it was with the idea that fuel dispensing was meant to be a public service—much like a library. The design really looks like a government building as a result, with what is called a Classical Revival façade (made of Alabama Limestone), and “Doric supporting columns beneath a pediment timepiece.”

Another iconic gas station by a leading architect is the Union 76 station in Los Angeles, designed by Gin Wong. It’s airport-influenced design is a perfect example of the Googie style so popular in the 50’s and 60’s.

As mentioned earlier, this is a subject that the blog likes to come back to from time to time, and the appetite for interesting-looking gas stations and convenience stores never seems to wane. Here are some past posts featuring some of the industry’s most interesting looks, in case you need to catch up:

They say variety is the spice of life, and our industry certainly subscribes. But one thing all retailers have in common is the search for profit and growth, which is where SSCS comes in. The technology we provide is scalable to whatever your convenience store needs may require, no matter how individualistic it may be. Want to find out more? Just give us a call at (800) 972-7727.