Capitol Hill’s only full service gas station up for grabs

Mike Burke (Images: Alex Garland)

The Hilltop Service Station on 15th Ave E — one of Seattle’s last full service gas stations — could be at the end of the road of more than 50 years of business on Capitol Hill. The station stopped selling gas this month though the busy garage continues to serve drivers from Capitol Hill and beyond. The land is up for sale.

Station owner Mike Burke has mixed feelings about the situation.

“I’m sad it’s a part of the community soon to change dramatically,” he said, “but at some point one has to accept the reality and move forward.”

 

Gary Bergamini, who passed away last November, owned the property since the 1960s. His assets moved into a trust operating on behalf of his heirs.

Burke came along in the late ‘70s, moving up from a gas pumper to a business partner. He will not make any new business decisions, however, until he talks with the property’s buyers. They could negotiate for the station to stay a while longer. But a developer is actively pursuing the property, according to Burke.

“So what do you think is gonna happen in Seattle,” he said.

The real estate manager representing the family in the planned sale did not return our call for comment.

Now 62, Burke said he made the move to an independent full service station when Texaco wanted to convert all gas stations to self service and convenience stores.

“It’s more profitable [for them],” Burke said. “We provide a continuity of service. It has to do with relationships with people, not just chains and customers. We’ve had decades-long customers because we’ve become friends.”

Hilltop Service Station was established circa 1966-1967 in the same lot it occupies today on the corner of 15th and E Mercer. The garage has been a convenient stop for Hill residents to get their cars fine-tuned, calipers fixed, oil changed, and of course, gas tanks filled.

Once home to the city’s Auto Row, Capitol Hill’s car-related businesses have mostly been replaced by banks, bars, restaurants, and new apartment buildings. The area’s gas stations are also increasingly unnecessary — and fewer and farther between. One of the most recent examples comes at 23rd and Union where the old Union 76 station was demolished to make way for a new six-story apartment and grocery store development.

The gas and service station business around Capitol Hill isn’t dead yet. Over the summer, the 76 station at Roy and Broadway changed hands in a transaction involving a $10 property sale, according to King County records and state liquor license applications. And 15th Ave E pot shop owner Ian Eisenberg — known for the Uncle Ike’s pot chain — tells CHS he might try to create his own full service station at the site of a property he purchased on E Union in 2015.

“I’d love to do a full service just like Hilltop,” Eisenberg said. “Hilltop was the best. I love that place, it’s kind of nostalgic and cool and different. It’s sad because they’re super nice people and do great service.”

But change continues to ripple up and down 15th Ave E. Earlier this year, Capitol Hill-based developer Hunters Capital purchased the block of buildings including the neighborhood’s QFC for $11.25 million.

Burke, meanwhile, wants to thank his customers and the Capitol Hill community for their support over the years.

“We are absolutely grateful to our customers and community for the support over many years,” he said.

 

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7 thoughts on “Capitol Hill’s only full service gas station up for grabs

  1. Maybe Uncle Ike can buy the property and make it in to a full service gas station. An old man can dream. But progress must move forward and a metal sided 6 story box will go up, housing the upper middle class.

    • Don’t worry, no boxes are going up on that lot any time soon.

      It’s guaranteed that any 1960’s era gasoline storage tank has been leaking fuel into the soil basically since day 1, so there’ll be 10+ years of environmental cleanup required before the lot can be redeveloped. Just like every other gas station that’s been removed in Seattle.

  2. I got my last fill up and window wash last Tuesday. They gave me a business card for one other full service station, although it is across town.

    I am disabled, unable to get out of my van to pump my own gas. I have lived on the hill for 25 years, appreciating this station as one of the only places in the city where an attendant would come to my window and ask me what I need.

    Every gas station has a sign for the Handicapped that says service will be provided upon honking the horn. I have never had this work. Sometimes, if I can find the number online and give them a call, an employee will come out and pump the gas. They are never happy to see me. Most often, they are unable to help because they are alone in the store. So, I lower the lift, transfer out and start asking for help of other customers pumping gas. As with other necessary interactions, these lead to some good human moments but it is a lot of work, holds up the line, produces anxiety and the thought of it limits my movement.

    Thank you Hilltop Service Station for an old idea I got to grow up with. You always always helped me off right on my solo adventures. ❤️

  3. Despondent! Where will we get our 20 yr old car serviced? We’ve been using them for years–so convenient and trustworthy. Just called and made a service appt after seeing this post–might be last one!

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