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Old service station to be remodeled
Buyer plans to keep buildings historic flair
The former Lee’s Pure Oil Service Station on Green Street in downtown Gainesville. - photo by NAT GURLEY

The long dilapidated remains of Lee’s Pure Oil Service Station on Green Street will be resurrected by a consulting firm later this month.

The Oxley Group recently purchased the building at 131 Green St. to house a new office and plans to renovate it.

“It has a historic flair to it and we want to keep that,” said Andrew Oxley, founder and president of the firm.

During the station’s heyday in the 1960s, gasoline cost about 29 cents a gallon, a car wash was $1, and you could get your car serviced by a mechanic for around $5. Regular customers had tabs and paid their expenses at the end of the month.

It was owned by the Pure Oil Co. and run by M.L. Lee, who operated the business for about 30 years. It became a landmark for Gainesville natives.

“It was kind of a community location,” said Lee’s daughter Violet Waldrip. “Customers would come and get gas and hang out for 30 minutes or so.”

Lee was dedicated to his business and provided service that is rare, if not extinct, in today’s age. He would pump gas, wash cars, service vehicles and install tire chains on customers’ cars when it snowed. The station’s proximity to the downtown square brought steady traffic and a diverse clientele. Doctors, lawyers, barbers and store clerks were common customers, and many became personal friends with Lee, Waldrip said.

“It was a great place back then,” said Boyd Butler, a longtime employee of Lee’s who later ran his own gas station.

“You don’t see too many places like that nowadays.”

It is unclear when the station was built, but family members and employees of Lee’s said it went at least as far back as the early 1950s and estimated it had been built in the 1940s. The location was bought in the 1970s by the Home Federal Savings & Loan Association, which later merged with SunTrust, which rented it out as office space for a few years. For the past decade or more, it has been used for storage and additional parking for the SunTrust location across the street.

The structure of the building is still in good condition, but the interior suffers from water damage and general disrepair, likely from being vacant since the turn of the century, according to Oxley. The group plans to remodel the location in a way that honors the historic nature but also suits its needs. The plans are still being formed, but possible renovations include adding a second story and enclosing the portico to make it into a conference center.

“If you can get past the fact that it is in disrepair, it has a great historical look,” said Oxley. “Whatever we do, we want to maintain that downtown context.”

The Oxley Group has had offices on Green Street for the past 20 years, but this is the first building it has owned. The firm conducts training and consulting for clients on topics such as hiring, leadership, communication, customer service and productivity. Its clients include Progressive Insurance, international jewelry designer Cartier, Coca-Cola Co. and CNN, but it also works with local businesses such as Syfan Logistics, Rushton and Co., McGarity’s Business Products and BatesCarter.

“We really started out in Gainesville before we got pulled to Atlanta and then nationally,” Oxley said. “That’s great, but I used to live in Gainesville and I love Gainesville. So, we want to do more work in the North Georgia area.

The Oxley Group plans to start renovations near the end of this month.

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