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    Not the Average C-stores

    United Oil president ensures his southern California stations stand out with custom architecture and design.

    LOS ANGELES -- United Oil stations stand out from any other convenience store on competing corners. That's because company president, Jeff Appel, spares no expense when creating and designing his stations, including his latest venture, which will cost $5 million to build, BusinessWeek reported.

    The property is located in Los Angeles and midway through construction. The design -- created by local modernist designer Stephen Kanner -- will feature circular ramps and a futuristic sweeping canopy design to symbolize the Los Angeles freeway system and also acknowledge the simple design of the 1950s Googie architecture, through the use of glass, neon and upswept roofs, the report stated.

    The circular ramps, which drop drivers off at the car wash entrance, are meant to exemplify a freeway on-ramp. The convenience store will feature red imported Italian Terrazzo floor tiles and a large curved glass window that looks out over the retro yellow gas pumps.

    It is the most ambitious project undertaken by Appel, who is head of the independent, family-run gas retailing company, the report stated.

    "A lot of times I get carried away," he told the paper. "But it's my passion. I know that's never going to pay off, but it fills me with pride and elevates the brand in the public eye."

    When inspiration strikes, Appel can't let go. "I can't sleep at night if an idea comes to me," he said. One station features a 26-foot tower reminiscent of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi, with blue and pink windowpanes, a glass mosaic waterfall and a $250,000 portico covered with imported French tiles that took five weeks to attach by hand.

    Another station boasts a Western theme, with antique barrels and Indian cigar-store totems. A trompe l'oeil painting of a cart in a mine shaft catches the eye on the wall behind the register. Outside, a poured-concrete surface resembles wooden planks.

    At yet another station, Appel requested a Greek mural to enliven the station's Mediterranean theme.

    The designs began in 1993 when Appel was given the opportunity to build a station in the upscale coastal neighborhood of Corona Del Mar, Calif. Architect Philip Sniderman was enlisted to design columns and stucco walls for the Mobil station, as well as a winged horse topiary, the brand's symbol at the time.

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