Metro Petro: A new style in gas stations?


One doesn’t often hear a gas station described as “beautiful,” but that’s just the word Clay Lambert uses when he talks about his newly remodeled service station, Metro Petro. Then again, how many gas stations have an imported Italian tile exterior?

Those who remember the former Citgo station — which Lambert and his wife Mia bought six years ago — will hardly recognize the place; the retail space grew from 175 feet to more than 3,000 feet, and the number of employees has grown from four to 16. The nearly three-year project cost $2.5 million to complete, including the purchase of the land.

The Lamberts worked with Iota Architecture’s Judy Grundstrom on the design of the independently branded store. Its orange-and-silver theme was inspired by a station the Lamberts saw while touring Bulgaria.

Full service is available at the four gas pumps from 7 a.m. until “drive-time” (around 2–3 p.m. daily) out of the manned mini-service station, which also provides eyes on the property and added safety for customers — a top priority, said Clay. Large windows front the main building, and heated sidewalks should reduce the danger of falls.

The Lamberts added irrigation around the building, and landscaping will be added this spring — perhaps with the help of the Prospect Park Garden Club, Clay said. They also replaced the sidewalks and curbing on the city property surrounding the property.

Inside, the store features 14 cooler doors and a walk-in “beverage cave,” which will hold 3.2–percent-alcohol beer and malt liquor products. On the retail floor, the product racks are on wheels and can be moved out of the way to make room for town-hall-type meetings, Clay said (with a respectful nod to the community-active Tom Sengupta and his Schneider Drug Store, just blocks east on University.)

Metro Petro is a “flagship” store for Deli Express’s new Café Express hot food center, which features roller-grill hot dogs, warm breakfast sandwiches, pizza, paninis, hot coffee and espresso, and more.

High above the retail floor, the “duct sock” inflates with a quick, audible rush when the heat engages. The sock is less expensive and more environmentally friendly, said Clay. Business offices are located upstairs, ringed by an open hallway with a view of the retail floor below.

At the back of the building, the new car wash can fit three cars at a time. The electric system uses less water than hydraulic washes, said Clay, adding that they installed their own power poles for the wash. Car washes cost $5–$9.

Metro Petro will open at 6 a.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. Saturday and Sunday and will close at 11 p.m. Sunday–Thursday and midnight on Friday and Saturday.

One thing customers won’t find at Metro Petro: the signature “pole sign” that advertises the price of gas at most stations. Prices are marked on the pumps, as is required by law.

Even before the store opened in late December, Clay was willing to look ahead at the possibility of franchising. “We believe this could be a good model for the city,” he said.