Abandoned Gas - Freedom - Coon Rapids, MN

It's been a while since I wrote about anything specific in good ol' Coon Rapids, so here's a gas station that is no longer there! Because his part of town needed a drive thru place for chicken fingers, more than a gas station that couldn't keep up with it's competition, directly to the north. 

Write your own punchline about Freedom being destroyed in order to be replaced by a deep fried chicken fingers joint.

I came up with many myself!


Freedom was originally a Conoco station when it was built in 1991 or 1992. I'm not really sure of that date. I know that this station was one of the first new buildings in this area, around same time Cub Foods, Walmarts and Sears opened on the west side of Round Lake. A few years before the Riverdale Shopping Center would be fully developed, in the late 1990's. Also not sure at what point the name changed from Conoco to Freedom. 


By the twenty year mark of it being open, it was obvious the station was struggling. This photo from September, 2012, shows it virtually empty in the middle of the day. Explanations for this are fairly obvious by just looking at the immediate area around the station.

Number one factor being access to this station is difficult at best.


While it faced the very busy Round Lake Boulevard, it's only entrance on Round Lake was a shared frontage road with Wendy's and the Midas behind it. This road can only be accessed by northbound traffic, with interference from the turn lane and oncoming traffic from highway 10, getting in the way. Southbound traffic would have to turn at the stoplight, then back out to a frontage road, then and around a block, then back out and around the block to the left turn lane to get back on Round Lake. So this effectively takes out the morning coffee people going to work, coming from the north. 

Cutting off a gas station's access points to normal traffic flow is a sure fire way to slow down your business. I remember what re-configuring the Hanson Blvd and Robinson Drive intersection did to the legendary Northdale 66, shortly after the turn of the century.


That same traffic situation also applies to Freedom's competition, across Northdale Blvd. As if the difficult access to Conoco wasn't enough, in 1997, Phillips 66 opened one of their new prototype convenience stores, "Kicks 66", on the corner opposite. I worked at one of these prototypes in Littleton, CO, when that station opened in October, 1996. When they were built, plans were to incorporate a fast food restaurant inside each of these stores. That never happened in Littleton, and it never happened in Coon Rapids, either. But they have Taco Bell and Denny's as immediate neighbors, so nearby food options are hardly a problem.


This photo is from March of 2001. Taken in the Round Lake Phillips parking lot, looking across Northdale towards Conoco.

For a few years, Conoco and Phillips lived across the street from each other. Conoco tried to steal business back, but the new Phillips thrived. Then in 2002, Phillips Petroleum merged with Conoco, creating a big evil gasoline conglomerate that made them the third largest oil producer in America. Subsequently, the new company -creatively named ConocoPhillips- lost all interest in retail, and sold off their chain of gas stations. The Littleton, Colorado, store became a Shell, and their Coon Rapids store lost the 66 Shield in favor of becoming a Marathon, then a Holiday. 

Pretty sure the Conoco station was sold and changed it’s name to Freedom after the merger. Either way, I don't think I ever stepped foot in this gas station. Of course, if I was in Coon Rapids, and it was pre-2005, my gas station loyalties lied ONLY with 99 Spillihp.


Stories of this legendary dispenser of petroleum products were written about a couple of years ago. You can read all about the majesty, wacky antics and awesomeness of my 99 Spillihp days here: 


This town has never seen a better gas station!


Well, I guess there was EZ Stop...

But we’re talking about Freedom now!


‘Merica!

In October 2017, Laura and I were visiting Crapids, making plans to move back here in the Summer of 2018. One afternoon (which also happened to be Halloween), while we were driving around to go somewhere, I stopped by Freedom to walk the property and take pictures. I’d been given the tip that this station had been closed for a few months, and may not be around for a lot longer. So I needed to see it now.

I parked the car on the southeast corner of the lot and got out for photos. Laura stayed in the car, as I don’t think she gets near the kick out of abandoned buildings that I do.


The Conoco sign was never replaced when ownership changed, nor was the look of the building adapted to make it look less Conoco-ish. At some point, an ill-fitting sticker with British Petroleum’s logo was affixed to the old Conoco sign. This just made the property look rather schizophrenic, with both Conoco and BP signage all over the property.


A sign was placed on the doors informing customers that this store would be permanently closed on May 31, 2017. Along with some token “Thanks for your support” messages and advertising for their sister store to the south. I didn’t know until I read this sign that Freedom was owned by the same people that run the Super (Speedway) America, on 242. That station was built about five years after this one. And yes, I am still calling it 242. Screw this Main Street nonsense….


The gas pumps are very much British Petroleum colors and branding. And who doesn’t remember those three gasoline flavors from way back in the days of Amoco. In fact, BP still calls their top line “Amoco Ultimate”. Remember Amoco? Or Standard before that? 

How about this long forgotten one on Crapids Blvd. near 610.  


Have to wonder how much Freedom it cost for a pointless re-branding of coffee cups. And that “New Look. Same Bold Flavor!” hook is the same one used by the tobacco company I support, a few years ago when they slightly altered the gold patterns on the packs I buy. I guess “bold” flavor is positive, regardless of the product it describes.


No one has emptied the Freedom garbages in a few months. Now they are jammed full with windshield wiper packages and utility marking flags. Kind of an odd combination... Did someone pull in to change the wipers on several cars? Then yank up all the underground cable marking flags while they were there?


Freedom’s backside, where they make the handicapped patrons park.


I was finished taking pictures on the northeast side of Freedom, so it was time to check out the car wash building.


The RAINSHIELD COMPLETE CAR WASH building! They may have spent in upwards of $20 on painting that sign on the window! Kind of creepy in how corroded the windowsill is. Must be some pretty harsh chemicals in the rain shield, in order to do that sort of damage.


Not sure if this was a wrapped barrel, garbage can or stack of tires...

All of which were popular gas station stuffings for 3D advertising.


The code entry box for the car wash has seen better days.


Once said code was entered, this magical door would raise and allow you to enter.

Just like pretty much every gas station car wash ever.


Well, as long as you follow the rules…


So... The sign says Conoco does not accept responsibility, but since this is no longer a Conoco, does that mean British Petroleum will accept responsibility? Or do you have to sue Freedom if cold and hot would accidentally mix?


Looking inside the window, next to the RAINSHIELD COMPLETE CAR WASH painting. It was really dirty and impossible to see inside clearly. So here’s what it looked like un-clearly.


And the exit, with badly sun faded Do Not Enter signs on both sides. With some dried up “Gorilla Snot” streaked out across the cement. There may be one reader at most that gets the Gorilla Snot reference.

And that’s okay...


As you exited the car wash, the dumpster station would be on your left. The dumpsters had long since been removed, but various gas station parts were still inside.


The non-dumpster side of the shelter was used for even more gas station supplies, including the broken door to the dumpster station. I also didn’t know that Dr. Pepper and Snapple came from the same bottler. I wonder if they ever made it back to Freedom to retrieve their stack of bottle trays? 

And why did Freedom bother keeping that busted up plastic thing with the Duct Tape all over it? It had already made it to the dumpster shelter, why not just throw it in while you're there?


The East/West facing sign on Northdale didn’t advertise Conoco anymore. Nor did it acknowledge British Petroleum or even Freedom. Instead, the sign plugged its prices below an ad for fine tobacco products. Whenever a gas station loses it’s corporate ownership, they often use tobacco products as an almost loss leader. (Or glass pipes if you are in Colorado.) If you make next to nothing on cigarettes, the hopes are customers will buy more in-store merchandise with higher profit margins, while you're there for a pack of heaters. Freedom would probably almost lose money on selling me a carton of Winston Gold 100’s BOX. But if I were to buy several 1 liters of Diet Mountain Dew and a couple Rock Stars, some gas station chicken fingers, maybe even a Nutrageous, the profit made on those purchases would offset the near loss on smokes. 

Which reminds me, I need to stop by Kwik Trip later tonight...


Diesel -in this case Biodiesel- was stuck on it’s own isolated pump on the outskirts of the property.

At least you could see Midas from there...


I’ve never seen a gas station that hung a color coded sign up for the gas trucks. Obviously this is important information for the drivers to know when delivering gasoline, but I’d never seen a posted key before Freedom. 

That pretty much covers anything of note around the Freedom perimeter, so let’s take a look at the retail area!


We’ll walk back up there from the northeast corner of Freedom.


Considering this hasn’t been a Conoco station for years, it’s strange that this advertisement survived the station itself. 


Red and white shelving... Alternating double brick tiling... Gold plastic moulding trimmed cooler doors...

Freedom has a very 99 Spillihp motif going on inside...


Just a very early 1990’s gas station layout all around.


Since tobacco is at state minimum, they apparently had to paper the door with regulatory statements. 


Looking beyond all those window stickers.


As you approached the cashier/fast food area, the store became quite a bit messier.


Looking in from the south facing windows, across the store.


At least Freedom could still fill some of your gift card needs!


Most of the south facing windows of the cashier area were blocked by shelving. But peeking around the corner, there was still a few things left behind. Including a can of Glade air freshener. For when your co-worker farts in the sealed up BR Package!


Looking into the cashier’s nest through the west facing windows. The full length Marlboro shelves are what was blocking the windows to the south. Freedom also had a dual level safe, just as 99 Spillihp did. Although Freedom's safe was twice as big.

Typical...


Funny those e-cig manufacturers didn’t get their displays back when Freedom stopped being free. Also left behind was a thermal printer for the car wash, two Bic lighter racks, a phone, some scotch tape, and an ID calendar. With the date of Freedom’s closure (minus 18 years) facing up. That’s kind of cool!


Why were the cash register drawers left outside the BR Package? No wonder they’re empty. You leave that kind of thing just laying out where customers could help themselves to spare change and crisp $20’s? They’ll rob you blind!

Even in this neighborhood!


I guess that’s where you would have found the Halls cough drops. Unfortunately they’re out of stock.


Now that we’ve made it all the way around the store, here’s the last shot of the cooler doors. Directly across from where I took the first interior shot you saw.


On that note, it’s time to take a final look at Freedom. 

And time for Laura and I to continue going wherever it was that we were going on this day.

And a few days later, we were back on our way to Denver. What should have been a 15 hour drive -at most- tragically turned into a 77 hour marathon of ridiculous tragedy. It was hinted at a few years ago in a (Trevor) Story here, but the full ordeal should find it's way to a dedicated post at some point.

What a horrifying debacle that was...

A few weeks after we returned to Colorado, my mom informed me that Freedom had been destroyed.

And she took photos!


Freedom was demolished in November 2017.


These photos were sent to me, and scanned for inclusion in this story.

Which was planned as soon as I took the Halloween pictures.


Which only took nearly three years for me to get around to writing.


The main store was already gone when she snapped these, but at least the car was was still there!


I do really like the single standing set of support beams for the missing canopy, and that sad white street light by the exit!

Before I get back to what happened to Freedom, let’s take a quick baseball break!

The season is finally underway, and already affected by Covid-19 problems (just ask the Marlins). Obviously there are no fans in the stands, so teams have gotten creative. Filling the areas shown on TV with cardboard cutouts of people, to make it seem like fans are there. Kinda...

So what did our hometown Minnesota Twins choose to do with the seats behind home plate?


Instead of size proportionate full bodies that look like they (almost) belong there, the Twins opted for giant cut out floating former Twins player heads plopped onto the seats, leering over the backs onto the field. Which just looks odd, creepy and disturbing...

However, I am awarding copious bonus points for including Bartolo Colon! (Third row, far left)


If I worked for the Twins graphic department, I'd find a very special place for this one!

Okay... Back to Freedom.


Or maybe Holiday, since they came out the winner here.

Fun fact: I was never on payroll at this store, but I used to clean the car wash here bi-weekly, during my second stint at 99 Spillihp in 2004-05.


Laura and I moved back to Crapids in June, 2018. Around the same time that construction of Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers began. This poor quality photo was taken on June 12, 2018. Shot at a bad angle, through the windshield, while waiting for the two and a half hour red light. Snapped quickly in case that light changed before I could take a better one.


I did get time to roll down the window and focus, but I had to drive because it was green.  So I didn't get the shot I wanted, because I wasn't looking at the camera.

You get the idea anyway.


This photo of the (nearly) finished Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers was taken from the Northdale Blvd. left turn lane, on September 29, 2018. I wanted to make sure I got the "Opening in 3 days" on the digital reader board, for historical sake.


After opening, they've seen a steady stream of business. People dig chicken fingers! And you get to pick your choice of dipping sauce! The drive thru always has cars in it, and cars parked in the lot, regardless of time of day. Like on December 16, 2018!

I've never eaten at Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers. I have nothing against the place, it's just not something I think of when I'm thinking of food options. Even though I drive on Round Lake Blvd a lot.

I guess I just miss Freedom...


Kind of sad to see that Freedom has been taken away from Coon Rapids... 

But this wasn’t the first time, and certainly won’t be the last time.

Freedom sold out for chicken.

Now if Raising Cane's Chicken Fingers was owned by the Russians, I could make a very timely analogy to the state of our nation today. 

But I'm not going to go there. 

Just like Freedom.

Okay, I managed to cram enough punchlines into this one.

Now I'm going to go eat something that's not chicken.

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