Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Even a Gas Station Can Be a Place

On the corner of Mt. Vernon and Braddock, on the edge of DelRay, Alexandria is Yates Automotive Services, which has been in business since 1964. It has the standard gas pumps and signs that initially suggest the cookie-cutter sameness of suburbia, but upon closer inspection, it's clear that Yates strives to be a unique, integral part of the neighborhood and is a strong believer in Place.

The little station keeps its lot meticulously landscaped. Its windows shine and its employees are spotless in their uniforms. And every holiday season, DelRay can count on Yates to be in the spirit; the station has reindeer on the roof in December, great shiny hearts in its window in February, and gravestones in its bushes in October. This obvious care and attention to detail goes far in earning the company local business. Says one customer, "I initially selected Yates because of the Christmas lights and decorations 25 years ago when I first moved here. I looked closer and saw the detail to the exterior maintenance and the cleanliness of the station. I figured that anyone who takes that amount of effort in being a good neighbor probably pays the same level of attention to its work."

I can't help but think that Yates has been around since 1964 because it obviously values the importance of place. Unlike many other similar establishments, it is not a business which feels temporary, transient, and disconnected. Rather it is nested in a community, hires local people, keeps them for decades, and contributes to the local community in small and not-so-small ways. It's also a pretty, little place that exudes pride. It's the only gas station I've ever been able to say that about. Photo courtesy of Eridony

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