Abandoned Gas! Star Express - Englewood, CO

This abandoned gas station is no longer an abandoned gas station. 


But for many years of my Englewood life, it was one I drove by often. Rarely stopped, but I was aware of it's presence dating back to 1996.


Star Express, formerly located at the intersection of Hampden and Downing in Englewood, Colorado.

Before we (can't) get gas, this story needs a little background... 

October, 2018, marked the 25th anniversary of Wasted Quarter. A self published "zine" I've been writing since 1993. While I don't plan on going back through those issues and reprinting a buncha stuff I previously wrote for Four Baggers, there are a few stories I wrote over the years that deserve to be expanded upon in this better format.


In September, 2015, I printed Wasted Quarter #70, Abandoned Englewood. This 150 page book was written to tell the story of Englewood's history, through it's disappearing defining buildings. For nearly two years, I photographed numerous structures around town (and the Denver Metro area, in order to document the -cough- progress..) that were either being renovated into a new purpose, or being removed altogether. Leading to something new -and far less interesting- being built in their place.

The problem being, a book format isn't the best way to tell that story. In order to print the photographs I chose to illustrate my story, some were reduced to less than an inch wide. Impossible to see any detail... So some of the stories will be re-written for Four Baggers. Here, I can expand the original story to include more pictures and greater detail.

I've already posted a re-written version of my Flood Middle School (Part One and Part Two) stories, which worked far better in blog form than book form. There are plans for expanded versions of my previously printed stories on Cinderella City, the Hilltop Motel, the London Motel, Martin Plastics, the Masonic Temple, Funtastic Fun and many others...

So here is Star Express in April, 2014!


The building itself is your standard 1950's style gas and service station. This model had been expanded at some point to include a larger retail area. With a previous service bay, reconfigured into a car wash many years ago...


With the car wash itself being removed long before the gas station closed. While I can't be certain, I suspect that Star Express used this as an office and storage, given the sink and water heater...


Star Express closed between 2012 and 2013, I don't remember exactly when. 

I think that I remember this being an auto mechanic shop, back in the days of giving rides to pizzas (1997-2000). After likely many ownership changes and many different gas/service stations, each lasting a year or less, it's last life (to this point) was as the Star Express.


Featuring a rather small and unsecured cashier area. Not that this part of town is riddled with crime, but everything out in the open is still uncharacteristic of gas stations today...


Looking back, you will see a rather underwhelming fountain/counter area. I kinda remember coffee pots and cases with pastries and stuff for morning commuters. (Old) Hampden and Downing is a very busy intersection, Star Express could catch the residential area before they hit the main routes to Denver and DTC. Not to mention Swedish Hospital sitting down the road.


Despite the desirable location, they likely couldn't compete with 7-11 a block away, on Marion Street. Looking west on Hampden, you can see Star Express's blue shingled roof, with the mountains on the horizon... Sigh... I miss Englewood... 

A couple of years after Star Express closed, 7-11 removed their gas pumps and adopted an in-store retail only business plan.


While the doors were covered in plywood, whomever was in charge had the courtesy to not board the angled windows up. Those windows were kept nicely clean and left unbroken, allowing a clear view of the interior.

The floor shelving seen in the previous photos had already been removed by the time I took these pictures.


My only experience with actually going inside the place came while driving a friend home from work, in the summer of 2011. She swore by how awesome the store was, and bought a pipe and food there often.

It makes sense for these places to sell pipes, as a great deal of indy convenience stores in Colorado do. They cost very little to produce and buy, making the profit margin very high!

No pun intended... 


I bought an energy drink, which was warmer than it should have been. Telltale sign of management not running the coolers as cold as they should, just to save a few bucks on the electric bill.

But, whatever... It would have been too out of my way to come here often. Prices were decent, atmosphere was nice.


I like shitty convenience stores... But they are even cooler once closed! 


The overhead canopy, underground gas tanks and pumps had all been removed, likely soon after Star Express closed for good. I photographed the store extensively in October 2014. Those pictures are above.


Next spring, while out on a birfday photo tour in March, 2015, I saw a dumpster parked out in front of Star Express. So something was about to happen there...


The second time I stopped here for photos was in May, 2015. The former convenience store is in the process of being gutted.


An Englewood city Demolition Permit was taped to the front window. It had been issued in February. The building had been sold and was being repurposed. Which was nice to see. The place could be turned into something productive again, hopefully just not another future failed gas station.


Electricity to the building had been shut off to allow work inside.


The front of the coolers. With the coolers replaced with a toilet!


The restroom has already been removed from the interior. Guess that's why the toilet was moved to the cooler. Hopefully it will be relocated in case this becomes another gas station...


I thought the building had a nice interior when it was a convenience store, but all of it was ripped out. So it obviously didn't fit what the new owners had in mind.


The removed sheetrock exposed original brick from when the station was built. You can see evidence of what were likely repair bays. The paint scheme definite looks like that of a repair garage. The door behind the cashier station has been removed, allowing a view into the red painted former car wash behind it.

I had missed this until gathering the pictures for this story. The tube leaning up against the window has "Cochino" written on the side.

Foreshadowing!


But of course in the meantime, some classless individuals needed to dump their stuff into the alley...


Around the time that work began on gutting the building, the message board under the Star Express logo sign read: "9EULS". I'm hoping it has some weird cryptic meaning, but would assume that a worker just found a few plastic letters laying around and decided to mess with me...

Doubt anyone else was paying attention!


Work continued into the Summer of 2015, but didn't appear to be moving at a rapid pace.


It looked pretty much exactly the same in October, 2015 as it did in July...


By April, 2016. Star Express didn't look like Star Express anymore...


Cochino Taco opened in the former Star Express in the Summer of 2016.

And the building looks great!


The garage on the north side of the building has been walled off, and a painting of a pig riding Pee-Wee Herman's bike, put up in it's place.


The south side of the building showed that Star Express had probably more than a few renovations through it's life, that left it looking and functioning far different than intended. Even the pay phone was gone! A non-functioning security camera focused on all the nothing going on...


As part of Cochino Taco, this area has grown an outdoor patio, which was added on later than Cochino's opening in the Summer of 2016.


And a second pig is now painted on the wall, next to the outdoor patio. This one looking far fancier, but lacking in the Pee-Wee bike department...

I never visited Cochino Taco while living in Englewood, to try their food. So I can only offer opinions on the building. In my mind, they did a great job in fixing up an obsolete convenience store, and turning it into something prosperous.


A few miles up Broadway, a Sinclair station dating back to the 1940's, has sat vacant for years, and recently underwent a similar transformation to become a Snarf's Sandwiches. The renovation of that property was photographed heavily over the last five years, and will be covered here at some point.

******

As I said, I've never eaten at Cochino Taco. But someone has apparently didn't like it...


Their way of handling such a review is rather ingenious!

If it indeed sucks...

They always seems to have a full parking lot on site that would contradict that notion.

******

This came together rather quickly... 

Will have to revisit Wasted Quarter 70 some more in the future... 

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