The Chevron in Blaine is my frugal husband’s nightmare and my dream. When you pull up to the pump, it’s pretty similar to any other gas station, besides the Sinatra playing and the sign advertising fresh bread. But then you pop into the store for a drink or a pack of gum and come back out carrying a stuffed axolotl, a handmade mug, and a fistful of whimsical stickers and your husband has a heart attack.

For Owners Mike and Skye Hill, the joy and surprise I experienced when I entered their store are exactly the goal.

“We want to make this the best gas station in the world,” says Mike. “There aren’t very many other people that think like that, but yeah, I just want to make it so special.”

And special is exactly what it is. The gift shop smells like an expensive scented candle, the kids’ section is full of extremely soft toys and unusual books; and the homewares are so appealing that it’s impossible to choose just one. Of course, there’s also the standard gas station fare, including a beer cave that takes up the entire 490-square-foot footprint of the pre-expansion store.

“It’s always the joke,” says Visual Merchandising Manager and Buyer Amber Ingersoll; a close friend of the Hills. “‘Where can you get a six-pack of beer and a wedding gift at the same time?’”

The gas station wasn’t always a gift shop— that was added in 2020, when the border closed due to Covid and the Hills went from pumping 5,000 gallons a day down to 500. The shop kept the business afloat all through the pandemic, and now it’s made the Chevron a destination gas station. Skye and Ingersoll do all the buying themselves.

“We’re always trying to change; we never want to be stagnant with products,” Ingersoll says. “I try to buy things in small quantities and then not buy them again unless they’re requested by customers, so that people in this small town aren’t running around with the same item.”

That’s a thoughtful strategy, especially since so much of the inventory is recognizable. One recent standout? A purse with a corded phone handset built into it— you can plug it into your phone inside and answer the handset if you get a call. Ingersoll says the adults love that piece even more than the kids, which makes sense, since most kids don’t have a frame of reference for anything older than an iPhone 6.

The Hills bought the Chevron in 1992, expanded in 2019, and added the gift shop in 2020, but the gas station has been here since 1908. And although it may look different, the core of what the Hills have done with the business— with the help of Ingersoll and Marketing Manager Tara Nielsen-Kaplan— hasn’t changed from its original purpose.

“It’s a sense of community here,” Skye says. “People love coming here to hang out.”

“It’s a social gathering space,” Ingersoll agrees.

“We just want to keep service, service, service. You can’t get it anymore!” Mike says.

Well, it turns out you can. Just south of the Canadian border, at an unassuming gas station in Blaine.