Ambiance at the Pump

CA gas station gets tropical makeover

MENLO PARK, Calif. -- The Willow Cove Gas and Food store in Menlo Park, Calif., , reopened last week with lush tropical landscaping, palm trees at the pumps and soft music. It's quite a change from the once rundown five-pump fuel stop, according to a report in San Jose's Mercury News.

Three hand-washing stations let motorists clean gas residue with warm water, soap and a fragrant lotion finish at the independently owned gas station.

While the car's getting tanked up, so are customers: An espresso coffee bar inside the [image-nocss] new convenience store has its own barista brewing up fresh lattes and cappuccinos, and there are assorted fresh pastries and sandwiches. Owner Ron Mallia boasts that his gas station might be the best little coffeehouse on Willow Road.

It has such an ambience; if you didn't know better, you'd think you were at the Hyatt Regency in Hawaii, said Mallia, who waxes on about the pampered fueling experience he offers customers. He says he was remodeling the gas station last year and decided on the makeover to help him beat stiff gas station competition. The station used to be cheaper than others, but with rising oil prices he's at about the level of competitors$2.65 for regular unleaded on Wednesday.

I found I had to be different, he said. Having amenities makes customers actually enjoy being in a gas station instead of thinking, I don't want to go there, but I have to fill up the car so let me get there and get the heck out.'