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Unseen LA: The Service Station, The Next Venue You’ll Want To Visit

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If you’ve ever driven South on Riverside after Los Feliz, you’ve probably seen a little gas station that has been abandoned for some time. It’s gotten better and better looking, transforming from a junk shop into what now looks like it could be a pretty cool place to maybe put in a restaurant or store or something since it’s such a curious architectural base.

Well, someone thought that up already: it has been flipped into a multi-purpose event space that hosts movie nights, food truck gatherings, pop-up retail, art events, and more. It’s now being called The Service Station and it’s a pretty sweet little place that you’ll want to be visiting this Summer.

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The Station comes from film industry persons Rachelle House, David Skinner, Clay Tatum, and Phil Crowe. They got the space a little over a year ago when House was driving by and noticed the place was recently put up for lease. She and Skinner had been looking for a space that they had initially planned to purely compliment their work–but that idea slowly grew into something much more bigger. “We do art department and set design so we have a lot of trucks,” House explains. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we have a lot where we can park our trucks and make some revenue off of that?’”

“And maybe it could be a shared, creative space,” Skinner added. House continues: “We were really interested in shipping containers and we wanted a space where we could repurpose them, maybe turning them into an office for us. Then, that expanded to being offices for other people. We always had our eye on vacant lots and, way back when, we thought of getting a gas station because it would be cool from a design stand point.”

“I’ve always passed by this spot and, suddenly, one day they kind of cleaned it up and there were for rent signs all along the front gate. I think I freaked out and called David–who was out of town–and we came to look at it. It was significantly cleaned up from when it was a scrap yard–but it wasn’t this.”

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Everything went very fast in terms of getting the space and then going into action getting it turned around into a functioning place. “Rachelle called me, she looked at it that day or the next day, and we were signing a lease within a week,” Skinner says. “We took it and we worked it out.”

“In that time, we took on two other partners–Clay and Phil–and got them on board with our idea,” House explains. “They contributed their own parts to it and they hopped on board. In the past year, our ideas and overall concept of what we want to do has stayed the same. Little ideas have changed but we still typically view this space as an open air, marketplace, retail space that everyone can collaborate and bring their vision to all still while being curated by us.”

The two note as they tour the space that it was once quite a mess. They didn’t witness the place in its dilapidated state but the neighbors in the surrounding apartment complexes did. “The best descriptions of what this place was are on Yelp,” House says. She points to the apartment complex South of the space, one that overlooks the Station property. “The people who live in those apartments have told us how they have these great apartments and a beautiful view of Griffith Park but the rule is to look straight out and never look down. Someone even told us they used to feed the German Shepherd’s down here!”

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Skinner nods. He chimes in: “A lot of people have taken them down but there used to be plywood covering their balconies so that they didn’t have to see the junk yard when they looked out. It was pretty nasty.”

There are still markers of the mess the place once was, though. A big thing that had to be eliminated was the malodorous presence of oil. It isn’t there anymore–but it took a lot of work to get the place into this condition. House speaks to this, the labor put into it coming back to her: “We couldn’t get the oil smell out of here until we literally shoveled sludge and nastiness out. We’ve really come a long way with how we’ve cleaned it up. We still have a long way to go though to permanently turn this into a beer garden and coffee shop that is open every day.”

Once the place was in a condition to work with, the job of fashioning the place into their dream venue was easy for them. “We both are in the film business and work as production designers,” Skinner says. “It was easy for us to end up theming parties and designing the feel of a space. That was a priority. That’s why it may have taken us a little longer to get going because we had this idea that if we put the right design and concept in and let people come to us, it’ll start to happen.”

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House agrees. “What we’re trying to push with the pop-up containers is that anyone that is a retailer who generally sells online or who makes small things or who is a start up can use them, to give them a miniature brick and mortar store when people are here. We basically spent the last year cleaning it all up. Now we have a movie night schedule and we’re working on more events.”

These upcoming events were tested last year as they were in the process of fixing the space. After some experimenting, they’re ready for business. “We did little test things last Summer,” Skinner says. House continues: “The containers weren’t in yet and we weren’t ready but we did do a movie night last September and it was successful. During Christmas, we rented out a part of the lot to Delancey Street who sold Christmas trees. It was great because people could pull right in, get a Christmas tree, hang out at a beer garden in the garage, we blew real snow down the alleyway, and we had pop-up shops.”

“It was like a little Christmas market,” Skinner adds. You may actually remember the market too as Silver Lake was hit with signs they made to get word out on the event. It obviously was quite successful and–like the movie night–proved that they had a good thing going. “People would come and get a tree and see what’s going on over here and then they’d get a beer and their kids would play in the snow,” House says. “Everybody was pretty into it.”

The Service Station currently is ready to take on people and host events. They are housing Evan Roosevelt and Austen Lee’s BeergardenLA, who they feel is a perfect fit for them. They have a list of movies already planned to happen and every Wednesday night is going to be a food truck night that will progressively get more and more high end.

They feel like they are filling a void in Los Angeles movie screenings, too. Primarily, the area of Los Feliz, Atwater, and Silver Lake doesn’t have anything else like it. They also are trying to be a one-stop-shop of attractions, too. “It’s nice,” Skinner explains. “The fun stuff–like Hollywood Forever Cemetery–and all the surrounding things to do are here and it’s much more intimate. We rent out beanbag chairs and the astroturf fills up and there’s a big movie screen. It becomes this casual, outdoor, homey vibe.”

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“Last weekend was our first movie night of our schedule of ten movie nights that goes until September. It was pretty mellow,” House says. They screened Pee Wee’s Big Adventure and turned the space into a bicyclists’ heaven. “”We had a really good turn out of vendors: they were all bicycle vendors and bike apparel companies. And, for upcoming Raiders Of The Lost Ark, we’ll probably do some sort of outdoor apparel and climbing, mountain, hiking stuff. For Goldfinger after that, I’m getting all worked up with ideas for men’s grooming and custom fit shirts–that kind of stuff. It’s a bit thematic when we do stuff here.”

“The community has been really responsive in a positive way too,” Skinner says. “It’s turned into a really interesting crowd. During the day, there are a lot of Los Feliz/Atwater/Silver Lake families with kids. That evolves into a night crowd once the sun goes down and the beer garden gets going. It’s a nice comfortable vibe where kids are welcome and dogs are welcome”

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House agrees and adds to that: “We don’t have the same predictable people walk in the door ever. Christmas was amazing because of all the different people who showed up. When we had the art show, it was completely different with a graffiti scene and Downtown artists. And movie night? That brings everyone. They are all completely different and special. It’s amazing to see how it all fits so nicely into the space.”

House and Skinner and their partners take pride in what they’ve accomplished in such a short period of time and hold the bar very high in terms of what goes into the space. Everything is curated and hand selected: The Service Station is very thought out and in no way a free for all–but it is a collaboration of many minds. “The biggest thing people ask when they come by the space is always what we’re doing,” House says. “It’s not well defined because we have so many things going on and we’re always changing.”

“It’s been a process of getting everything and everyone together,” she says. “What this space has to offer is what people discover it to be and what they contribute to it.

For more on The Service Station, check out their website. They have many movie events happening this Summer–their next being May 11 followed by May 25–and are welcoming food trucks every Wednesday evening. You can get more information from their Twitter and Facebook pages, too.

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