Exterior of the Niles Flying A in Fremont, Calif.

photo by: Alamy/Michael Vi

Preservation Magazine, Summer 2022

A Revamped Service Station Brings Midcentury Nostalgia to the Bay Area

Around the clock, especially when the green neon lights go on at dusk, drivers pull over at the entrance to the Niles historic district in Fremont, California, to take photos of and with the newly restored Niles Flying A service station. Delivering a bit of midcentury nostalgia to the San Francisco Bay Area, the station’s retro vibe appeals to classic car enthusiasts, history buffs, and passersby alike.

Originally built by the Solon Brothers in 1938, the building—which began as a Flying A before changing hands multiple times—had started to crumble over the years. When René Aguirre, a mechanic who specializes in classic car restoration, and his wife, IT expert and event planner Krysten Laine, began renting the property in December of 2020, it was a wreck. After hauling away piles of grimy car parts, they made a laundry list of repairs. Staying true to the 1938 building layout, they fixed the sagging foundation, repoured the concrete floors, replaced missing windows with period-style ones, and even rebuilt the gas pump island.

Restoring a place where classic autos could live made sense for the car-loving couple, but “what excited us most about this restoration,” says Laine, “was how much our community has been involved.” Collectors donated Flying A gas pumps and other company memorabilia. Local restoration experts and other businesses contributed blazing neon lights, period-appropriate sign painting, and exterior and interior painting that matches the original Flying A colors. No longer an operational gas station, Niles Flying A has a new life as a stylish event space, historic vehicle restoration garage, and the perfect spot for both car connoisseurs and the larger community to gather.

By: Eva Barrows

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