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Redan - Stone Mountain, GA | bp connect - Atlanta, GA

  Sing Store in 1970s - Sing Oil Company

Redan

Sing Food Store

4794 Redan Road

Stone Mountain, GA 30088

Original Publication: June 7, 2021 - Revised and Refreshed: February 10, 2024 

Scroll Down for today's MTC post on the bp connect convenience store concept

Editor's Note: Today, we are taking a fresh look at my sixth ever post on the blog which covered the former Redan Sing Store.  Back in the early days, my posts were quite dry and lacked the substance I strive for today; likewise, I've taken the original foundation from 2021 and built it up to my modern standards (while also finding a boatload of new information).  I hope you enjoy today's feature!

Welcome to year four of The Sing Oil BlogTwo weeks ago, we reflected upon everything we have discussed and discovered over the course of 2023, so today seems like the perfect time to dive into a brand new topic.  I had initially planned to explore our MTC topic in an independent post, but later realized I had the perfect Sing Store compliment.  Let's dive in.

I know the original Redan station was built sometime between 1972 and 1978 but the records for the site are surprisingly vague.  The DeKalb County property records mention the parcel of land transferring from Sing Oil Company to South Georgia Shops on April 5, 1976, pointing to that year as being when this station commenced operations.

As a quick aside, South Georgia Shops was a joint venture between L.H. Singletary, R.L. (Dick) Singletary, Malcom T. Wilkes, and Harold Wilkes, according to the Georgia Secretary of State's website.  The first two names should sound familiar to anybody who has followed this blog for a while, but the latter two were the operators of the Thomasville #1 dealer station that I'll cover in a later post.  The company was formed as "Sing-Wilkes Minute Wash, Inc" in 1959, and later changed its name to "South Georgia Shops, Inc" in 1973, likely to show the corporation's involvement in Sing's larger convenience store business.  I should really dive deeper into more of these sub-companies one day!

The first official mention of the Redan Sing I found was in Fall 1979 as part of an extensive newspaper ad campaign the station ran in The Atlanta Constitution.

Redan Road Sing Coffee Coupon (AJC) - January 3, 1980
Accessed July 6, 2021 from the Atlanta Journal Constitution database on ProQuest

Located just over 7 miles from Stone Mountain Park in DeKalb County, this station was situated in Atlanta's Eastern suburbs just outside the 285 perimeter.  The area certainly saw a large population growth in the second half of the twentieth century, which is likely why Sing had three stations within a two mile radius.  This region of DeKalb County has also seen a large influx of immigrants following the 1996 Atlanta Olympics allowing international supermarkets, like the nearby Nam Dae Mun we toured, to thrive while traditional players like Publix are noticeably absent.

Due to the original Sing convenience store no longer standing, it was hard to confirm the exact location without digging through piles of county records or passing through a pay wall (Ha! Future me now has a subscription to Newspapers.com).  However, I was able to verify that the Sing station on Redan Road was at the intersection with Hairston Road.  Given this, I determined the station in the Northeast corner of the intersection fit the bill of a Sing convenience store layout.

The Redan store would have looked similar to the one at the top of the post; however, I still have no clue where that circa 1971 picture was taken (and which Sing had a pump setup like that).

Manta search result on Bing - June 30, 2021
Listing description confirms the Redan location as 4794 Redan Road.

Redan was one of several locations in the Atlanta Metro for Sing Oil Company that was operated and branded as a Sing station (in contrast to Standard-branded stations like Powder Springs).  It was also one of four stations in the Atlanta Metro to be torn down by the end of the Twentieth Century.  The key difference, though, is that this site wasn't destined to become a Checkers like Powder Springs or Sandy Plains; instead, it was rebuilt as one of Amoco's premium "Split Second" concepts along with the Trickum location.

The Atlanta Constitution (Newspapers.com) - October 16, 1997
Notice the old Redan Sing Store listed as the Stone Mountain location.

If you are asking yourself "What is a Split Second," then you aren't the only one:  I had no idea the concept existed before circling back to research this old Sing a few weeks ago.

Split Second was first piloted in 1990 with a location in Dunedin, FL, followed by one in St. Pete.  It appears that the Tampa Bay area locations did well considering how the concept expanded to Chicago and Philadelphia in 1996.  Atlanta was the fourth market, trailing the latter two by a year, with the old Redan Sing being one of six stores used for the market debut.

The Tampa Bay Times (Newspapers.com) - October 12, 1990

While reading through the Tampa Bay Times article above, I picked up on a few lines that felt noteworthy, including one stating that, "After five years of market research – much of it conducted in hush-hush secret in an unmarked warehouse in mid-Pinellas County – Amoco Corp. on Thursday unveiled a prototype convenience store it hopes will bring life to a dying business."  Just keep this one in your back pocket, because we'll see a surprising parallel from a decade later in the MTC portion of this post . . .

Furthermore, the article went on to say, "In redefining the convenience store, Amoco took on the industry's biggest problem:  how to lure women back into stores . . . Convenience stores' core customers are young men who buy cigarettes and a six-pack, but they are a dwindling segment of the population."  This line struck me as it highlighted the large juxtaposition in Twentieth-Century retail:  we've seen many historical news articles describing how housewives were expected to grocery shop for the household but weren't trusted to pump their own gas, while the men only donned the convenience stores in search of beer and cigarettes.  While the former examples have certainly changed in the Twenty First-Century, I'm not sure if the latter has (or more precisely, I'm not sure how successful convenience stores' efforts to change the latter have been).

The Atlanta Constitution (Newspapers.com) - December 10, 1998

Anyhow, at least they tried.  According to The Atlanta Constitution the new Split Second stores attempted to achieve that goal by offering more ready-to-eat meal options.  In 1998, the paper noted that, "Amoco has some McDonald's outlets, too, but is testing its own fast-food concept at 53 stores in five markets.  In metro Atlanta, 24 Amoco stations have Split Second, a deli counter serving made-to-order sandwiches, packaged salads and fresh fruit.  It's a pleasant surprise, especially for convenience-store chow.

Sandwiches are generously portioned, with fresh ingredients, and moderately priced. They're available either to order during counter hours or prepackaged.

From an Italian sub to mayonnaisey chicken salad on a sesame seed roll, they compared favorably to those sold by many fast-food competitors.

These stores must have been a noticeable change for the industry, which first began experimenting with in-store delis and fried chicken in the mid-1980's, considering how much coverage it received in Atlanta newspapers.  At a minimum, I suppose the options at Amoco Split Seconds were attempting to feel healthier with the "yogurt cartons, fresh bananas and oranges" in addition to the more traditional chips, cookies, candy bars, and soft drinks.

The Atlanta Journal (Newspapers.com) - February 28, 1999

The last article I'll throw in is a big one describing Amoco's competition in the Atlanta area with QuickTrip in the emerging "extra" convenience store market.  What's notable is that the piece includes a picture of the Redan Split Second store, along with a list of the largest convenience store companies in 1999.  At that time, #3 Circle K only held a 500 store (or 15%) lead over #4 BP Amoco, which is shocking considering how that gap has vastly widened two decades later.

That brings us to today (well, kind of).  This store was converted to the "bp connect" format following the integration of Amoco's assets with BP's in the 2001-2002 time frame.  It operated as such for the better part of a decade, until the British company sold the site to an individual operator for $1.2 million in 2009.

Shortly after the sale, bp converted the remaining corporately-owned bp connect stores to the ampm brand (acquired from Arco in 1999), allowing this store to survive as a time capsule while most of its brethren were modified.

Courtesy Anthony C. (Yelp) - Former Redan Road bp connect - November 1, 2010

As intriguing as this store sounds, I don't particularly enjoy venturing to this side of Atlanta, especially after my adventure at Nam Dae Mun - Stone Mountain.  Conversely, I felt like I couldn't properly update this post without at least attempting to see this store for myself.

Several weeks ago, I begrudgingly motivated myself to venture out to this location and try to take some pictures of it.  I was fresh on the heels of a brief conversation with NW Retail when I went to this store, knowing good and well that this shoot would be one of the "several where most of my shots turned out pretty bad."  I marched on regardless, thinking how I had made it this far and wasn't going to turn around now.

As I was driving up, thoughts of sugar plums the several shooting-related news stories from this intersection danced in my head (those three separate links refer to three different incidents which have occurred since 2021; searching for "shooting bp redan rd" will likely yield even more results).  In retrospect, this venture was probably against my better judgement, but I did still survive unscathed (and went during broad daylight).  

If it tells you anything, Publix previously operated store #804 a little further down Hairston Road but closed it without replacement in 2018.  The location is now a Goodwill.


Upon planning my quick escape route (if needed), I proceeded to walk up to the double doors and grasp the handle.  The first thing I noticed was how the silvery-gray paint was chipping away to reveal a bright red undercoat – that's an Amoco remnant if you ask me!


Walking in, I wandered around for a brief amount of time looking for chewing gum before settling on something from the drink cooler.  I was trying to take in my surroundings for outside threats while also trying to take pictures without even looking at my phone.  The former definitely took priority, so the latter suffered severely.  I still managed to take a few poorly framed but partially in focus shots, just nothing like I would have hoped.  At least Google Maps had my back (sort of)!  

Courtesy Noemi Moreno (Google Maps) - March 10, 2023

Anyway, I was shocked at how most of the bp connect graphics survived all this time – I only realized this after scrolling through my pictures since I felt so uneasy inside the store. Just look at all of those circa 2001 icons on the hanging banners!


Like many of the former "connects" in Atlanta, this store's old Wild Bean Café was converted into a taqueria, and the coffee counter was stripped of any old branding.  At least the Amoco floor tile remained!


I managed to get out of the store before my clothes completely reeked of incense and before I got mauled by the two pit bulls I passed on the sidewalk (seen in the exterior shot above) and thanked my lucky stars that the trip went as well as it did.  I even managed to get a shot of the vaulted ceiling!

In retrospect, I'm still asking myself why I even bothered, but if the Publix playlist (or the Nam Dae Mun playlist!) has anything to say about it, "I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell."

While driving to my next destination, I spotted another familiar friend:  a former "Inverted Chek" Winn-Dixie Marketplace.  While the exterior has been well preserved, the inside looks like the only interesting relics to remain are some scarred concrete floors reminiscent of a Winn-Dixie tile pattern.

Courtesy DeKalb County Property Records - March 2003

Winn-Dixie last operated this store as a SaveRite following the conversion of all Metro Atlanta stores to the discount banner; however, the interesting piece is what followed this store's divestiture.

Courtesy DeKalb County Property Records - February 2007

It appears that an independent grocer took over the space and liked the idea of the discount grocery banner so much that they named it "SuperSave".  Isn't it ironic how similar that logo looks to that of SaveRite's?  It's almost like they wanted to save on signage!

Let's take a quick look at some street views of the old Redan Amoco before continuing on down the road to today's MTC stop.

Google Street Views

Google Street View - September 2019
Former site of Redan Sing station as a BP - View from Redan Road

Aerial Views

Google Earth - December 2018
Amoco Split Second as a BP station on Northeast corner of intersection

Google Earth - February 1999
Amoco Split Second on Northeast corner of intersection

Google Earth - January 1993
Original Redan Sing station on Northeast corner of intersection shortly after merger

Historic Aerials - 1981
Redan station on Northeast corner of intersection

Historic Aerials - 1978
Newly built Redan station on northeast corner of intersection

Historic Aerials - 1972
Future site of Redan station on Northeast corner of intersection

Additional Resources: 

Historic Aerials

Google Earth Pro

Google Maps

DeKalb County Property Records

Parcel ID: 15 224 03 001

 


 


Greenwashing at its Finest

Courtesy bp, p.l.c. (Flickr) - BP Connect store near Chicago - 2012

Welcome to today's More Than Convenience section of the post.  I initially didn't feel compelled to write about the old Redan Road Sing considering how it had been demolished way back in the 1990's, but a new light was shed upon it when I realized that its replacement was one of the flagship bp connect stations in Atlanta.

I began working on this section of the post back in December as a tangent of my Standard Oil research, but then became discouraged when I thought I had accidentally deleted the draft post with all of my information.  Thankfully, the thought crossed my mind that I had put the content elsewhere and after tabling the concept for a month, a renewed interest arose.

bp connect on its own is a fascinating concept, but I had no idea it sparked from the Amoco Split Second and BP Express stores which preceded it.  We learned plenty about the Amoco Split Seconds above, but I still haven't been able to find much information on the 1990's BP counterparts in Atlanta papers.  Thankfully, several other cities stepped in to help with that.

The State (Newspapers.com) - May 13, 1993

BP's own "gourmet" convenience store endeavors can be traced back to 1993 in Columbia, SC.  Heralded as the site of many corporate experiments, such as McDonald's trial of the "McLean Deluxe", Burger King's introduction of Domino's Pizza in select restaurants, or the test of the 1983 movie "Tijuana" before it was renamed "Losin' it", Columbia seemed to be no stranger to seeing wacky ideas come and go. 

Retired BP "shield" sign - Thomasville, GA - May 2022

In addition to the expanded fresh food and dairy options found at Split Second stores, many BP Express locations boasted Blimpie outposts, fresh baked goods, and gourmet coffees to satisfy the upscale tastes of the younger population.

The Commercial Appeal (Newspapers.com) - August 2, 1997

Luckily for BP, the trial must have fared better than most in Columbia's history, as the company decided to expand the concept to other cities.  By 1997, the new store format was gaining steam in Memphis with 8 Express units already in operation and two to three more planned.  At this time, I also saw mention of stations scattered across the Cincinnati and Nashville metros. 

A New Horizon

Picture it: Atlanta, Georgia, 2000.  BP had recently completed its merger with Amoco and was looking to shift sales "beyond" being primarily oil-based.  The company developed the "Helios" branding as a launching pad for a new agenda centered around renewable energy and increased convenience store food sales.  According to The Ledger, "BP's new symbol will be a stylized green-and-yellow sunburst, appropriate for a company that, thanks in great part to its solar-panel manufacturing division, Solarex, is the world's largest manufacturer of solar technology."  

bp went on to say that, "Everyone who saw the logo had to sign a secrecy agreement, even two days before the launch."  That launch occurred on July 24, 2000, and would forever change the British company.

Courtesy bp, p.l.c. - Helios logo unveiling at the Naperville, IL, campus - July 2000

To compliment the new logo, BP secretly developed a new store design to replace the Express and Split Second outlets of the prior millennium.  The Ledger goes on to say, "The concept gas station, dubbed BP Connect, was developed under cloak-and-dagger conditions in an unmarked warehouse in this suburb [McDonough] 30 miles south of Atlanta. But the reasons for pumping up the gas experience are no secret. In addition to giving the company a new unified identity, according to company officials, the jazzed-up station may increase convenience-store sales, which are more profitable than gasoline sales, and provide a showcase for BP's solar products."

Courtesy BP - Prototype BP Connect station in McDonough, GA, warehouse
Note the London skyline in the background of this photo

What is it with convenience store concepts being tested in unmarked warehouses?!  Anyhow, what's even more fascinating that bp shared this picture of the prototype McDonough store – I wonder what they did with the building once the test was over?

The New York Times goes on to say that, "The prototype was tested in an old warehouse outside of Atlanta because of its proximity to the suppliers in charge of making the new pump with its LCD screen."

Wayne gas pump at former Buckhead bp connect - March 2022

Those new pumps were quite funky and featured a distinct curved design which encases a canopy column. The only similar examples I've seen in person were at the old bp connect in Buckhead (shown above), and have unfortunately since been replaced by run-of-the-mill Gilbarco Encore pumps.  These didn't have a fancy LED screen showing the weather forecast, but for all I know, that feature may have been removed long ago due to a faulty design or may have only gone to select stores.

Former Buckhead bp connect - March 2022

The New York Times article continued by saying, "BP Amoco, which analysts say has always been particularly sensitive to brand identity, began discussing branding as soon as its $48.2 billion acquisition of Amoco was complete in January 1999. Both brands needed a face lift: Amoco's stations had kept the same design for the last 20 years and BP for the last 12. The company hired Landor & Associates, a division of Young & Rubicam, to research consumer attitudes toward the stations. Landor found that customers liked Amoco products but thought the red, white and blue stations were too dark. At the same time, they found the green and yellow BP colors appealing."

Former bp connect road sign - Union City, GA - January 2022

And from that market research, the hybrid bp with Amoco Fuels branding was born.  It's worth noting the old Amoco logo which used to grace every bp station in the country is essentially the same graphic previously plastered to the black Amoco canopies of yore.  The yellow and green really did brighten things up!

Wayne Anthem UX fuel pump with bp Invigorate branding - Forsyth, GA - January 2021

If you are now wondering why signs like the one in Union City seem to be a distant memory, that's because bp dropped the Amoco Fuels tagline in 2008 to focus on its new Invigorate fuel detergent.  The company, however, didn't completely eliminate the legacy brand, as bp's premium gasoline continued to be marketed as "Amoco Ultimate".  Furthermore, bp revived the Amoco brand in 2017 by launching the name on gas stations across the US.

The Atlanta Constitution (Newspapers.com) - May 17, 2001

Speaking of the Union City bp connect, that station was one of seven to debut the concept in May 2001.  In the picture above we see the distinctive curved gas pump canopy infused with photovoltaic panels.

According to a 2002 AJC article describing a new station in Forest Park, "The solar powered lighting is part of a $100 million BP Connect plan to build or retool older stations in the Atlanta market.

By the end of next year, the metro area will have about 50 solar powered locations.  Currently about half as many solar stations are up and running in the Atlanta area.  There are 190 solar locations worldwide, according to BP Connect's Richard Judy.

Solar power used at the Forest Park station will convert sunlight into about 20 kiloWatts of electrical power.  It is projected to produce about 15 percent of the station's electricity needs.  The use of solar panels is expected to cut into an estimated $3,000 monthly electric bill at the stations."

BP's "beyond petroleum" and The Origin of the Carbon Footprint

Shortly following the "Helios" rebrand, bp launched a 2002 marketing campaign to re-spin the corporate acronym as representing "beyond petroleum".  The fun continued in 2004 when bp created the concept of a personal carbon footprint.  

The oil giant hired public relations firm Ogilvy & Mather to create marketing materials and an online calculator encouraging individuals to tally their own personal carbon footprint.  Despite the political nature of this issue, it's hard to ignore the ongoing debate some have over who is most to blame for carbon emissions.  

The oft-quoted statistic that "100 companies are responsible for 71% of carbon emissions" inherently seems to pin the blame on the corporate leadership or investors, while some groups argue the customers of are the true culprits, or others still say even individuals who have their retirement or pension funds invested directly or indirectly in these companies (a component of the personal carbon footprint called Scope 3 emissions) hold responsibility.  Regardless of how you feel about this topic, bp was obviously eager to steer things in its favor by being an early participant in this discussion.

I pledge to share this post on Reddit : r/MurderedByWords
BP Tweet and reply - October 2019

Funny enough, bp continued to promote and update its carbon footprint calculator as recently as 2019.  However, in a time where the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill (commonly referred to as "the BP oil spill") has usurped Exxon Valdez in the public memory, and social media users are snarkier than ever, I think BP's communications team should have anticipated the reply seen above . . .

Especially following the Gulf Oil Spill, the public still by and large considered the former British Petroleum to still be just that – a petroleum giant.

BP published an article several years back where CEO Bernard Looney reflected on the branding pivot after 20 years.  Interestingly, he goes so far as to admit that the ambition behind transformation was ultimately a flop by being ahead of its time, but that the company went on to learn some valuable lessons. 

The Concept

A while back, I was digging through a pile of old media and uncovered something that caught my eye:  a DVD which read,

BP CONNECT 

BP's new retail site concept

You know that caught my eye!  I quickly picked up the disk and popped it in my DVD player.

I'd have to guess that the video dates back to the concept's launch in 2000, and thanks to the modern conveniences of the web, you can watch it too.

"The stores are divided into five sections: a food service section, a beverage section, an impulse-buying section with snacks, a convenience-store section and an Internet section. The lighting changes with each section. The food service section has a warm, golden glow while the milk-and-eggs portion of the convenience section has a fluorescent tinge." - The New York Times

Whether you are a British man buying Valentine's day flowers for your wife on the in-store computer, a taxi driver filling your car with petrol, or a hungry mother picking up coffee from the café zip (branded as Wild Bean Café in the US) and a box of cereal, this video showed how bp connect unleashed a whole world of new possibilities for shoppers.

The Atlanta Constitution (Newspapers.com) - March 18, 2004 - Page 2

Back in Atlanta, the concept seemingly continued on without a hitch, as this 2004 article highlights the "sophisticated fare" customers could find at bp's Wild Bean Cafés.

If you're still a bit confused about all of these endeavors, Speedace.info does a good job of summarizing the differences between bp's convenience store efforts in the early 2000's: 

BP Retail Brands

  • BP Connect

This is BP's flagship retail brand name with BP Connect Service stations being operated around the UK, Europe, USA, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world. BP Connect sites feature the Wild Bean Cafe which offers cafe style coffee made by the staff and a selection of hot food as well as freshly baked muffins and sandwiches. The food offered in Wild Bean Cafe varies from each site. BP Connect sites usually offer table and chair seating and often an Internet kiosk.

 

  • BP Express

This was the flagship BP brand prior to the introduction of BP Connect in 2000. There are still some BP Express sites operating around the world but most have been either upgraded to Connect or changed to an alternative brand. BP Express offers a bakery service but doesn't have the selection of food offered in the Wild Bean Cafe and usually coffee is only available through a self service machine.

 

  • BP Shop

Commonly used on smaller sites mainly independently owned sites. Products vary in each BP Shop but usually a selection of convience [sic] store style food and automotive products.

1990's BP Shop livery - Valdosta, GA - July 2023

As the 2000's came to a close, bp made the decision to fold all of its remaining bp connect stations in Georgia into Arco's ampm brand.  It appears that most of the shops received little more than a signage swap, but I'd assume the marketing powers that be assumed the change was worth the effort.

Courtesy ToNeToATL - Former Atlanta-area ampm

As noted by Tomorrow's News Today, BP withdrew the ampm brand from the East Coast in 2012, seemingly marking an end to the company's corporately standardized convenience store efforts in the region.  Most of the stations were sold to private operators and the old Wild Bean Café spaces were subsequently backfilled by a plethora of concepts including Subway, Domino's, Dunkin' Donuts, and more recently Georgia's second Tim Horton's.

Conversely, it seems that most of the Subway outlets have since converted to some form of independent taco shop – an extremely random trend if you ask me!


This wouldn't be a full MTC post without me visiting a store for myself, so I decided to check out the old East Lake / Glenwood Avenue bp connect after leaving the old Redan Sing.

East Lake

Former bp connect | Former ampm

2371 Glenwood Ave SE

Atlanta, GA 30317

This store is very close to the East Lake Golf Club where The TOUR Championship is held every year.  The portion of the neighborhood I drove through didn't seem like the place I'd picture a major PGA tournament, but alas, I don't make the rules.  At least I felt safer at this station than at the Redan store!


Part of the draw for this station is the fact that it still has one of the arched photovoltaic canopies in place.  I'd have to imagine the efficiency of those solar cells has diminished significantly over the last two decades, but they still make for a cool roof!

 

After filling up my car with gas, I noticed my credit card statement still mentioned ampm as the merchant, which I found interesting. 


I wish I could have taken a better shot of the building, but there was a man sitting in his truck right out front the whole time.  Of course, he seemed to be staring right at me through his windshield!   

On top of that, the cashier was giving me the death stare the whole time I meandered through the aisles once inside the store:  I'm not sure if he thought I wanted to steal something or if he was entirely bored out of his mind.  Either way, I didn't want to risk it, so I settled for the few low quality pictures I could get.  Our first crooked shot shows part of a "Fresh Food Fast" cooler that I noticed in some of Nordic GPS' other shots.  I'm not sure if this is a remnant of the flagship prototype, but it seems like it would have been a convenient place to grab a ready-made sandwich after walking through the sliding doors.

 

Next up, we'll take a blurry look at the front right corner of the store featuring an original "restrooms" sign and some old floor tiles.


Although this store still had plenty of BP Connect remnants (such as the "water" and "juice" category markers above), it didn't have any of the original wall decorations or department signs in place like Redan.  

I remember right around the time I took this picture, a frequent customer walked in and drew the cashier out of his booth for a hug.  They then chit-chatted for a bit but still didn't provide enough cover for me to feel safe taking any more pictures.  Oh well.  

The only thing that made it worse is how the customer started talking to me and offering me moving services, handyman services, plumbing services, or any sort of services I would take.  He was "just doing a little bit of advertising."  I politely declined him but was also thinking to myself that there is no way I'd ever get work done by a random person at a gas station, on top of the fact that I don't even live anywhere near that station!  I tried to steer the conversation toward the chilly weather and proceeded to pay for my purchase.  

While this adventure may have been about as unsuccessful as the Redan Road stop, at least I can say I've now been there and done that.  I also escaped without any scarring memories (ehm, Nam Dae Muntain).  The only thing I really regret is not being able to see a BP Connect during its heyday, or even as an ampm!


Thankfully, Nordic GPS saved the day again by capturing a nice 360 degree view of the left side of the store back in 2016.  The Subway has since given way to – you guessed it – a taqueria, but the layout remains the same.  I'd also like to point out the old "Wild Bean Express Café" sign over the coffee, "Lotto Mania" sign by the register, and "Thanks for Shopping" sign over the door which seem to have held on.

Nordic GPS must be a fan of the old bp connects as he also photographed several other stations including this one in Cumming and this old Split Second in Duluth.


Once again, Nordic GPS took a panoramic photo of the gas pump canopy.  Wasn't that nice of him/her?

Now, for one of the best parts of this post:  a set of historical photos I stumbled upon by complete accident.


I remember reading one of the old newspaper articles describing the bp connect concept when I stumbled upon a paragraph showcasing the EV Club of the South.  The group was formed during the first wave of electric vehicles to evangelize on the benefits of the new technology and provide a source of information for EV drivers.  Thanks to them, we have a list of all of Metro Atlanta's EV charging stations circa 2001, which range from gas stations, to shopping malls, to Southern Company / Georgia Power Company offices.

The leader of this club seemed to take his red GM EV1 all around Metro Atlanta posing in front of places like the Arbor Place Mall Parisan, the Costco in Kennesaw, the Macy's (now Bloomingdale's) parking deck at Lenox Square, or a meadow at Château Élan.  It's fascinating to look through the photos from all of the club's designated "green merchants" to see how those places looked back in 2001!

Courtesy EV Club of the South (archive.org) - East Lake bp connect - March 10, 2001

I do wonder if this could be the same cherry red EV1 found in an Atlanta parking garage several years back – that would be a neat twist.

Courtesy EV Club of the South (archive.org) - East Lake bp connect - March 10, 2001

One particular "green merchant" of interest just so happened to be the East Lake bp connect station.  In addition to seeing photos of a rare EV1, we also get to see how this flagship station looked shortly after it opened!  

Courtesy EV Club of the South (archive.org) - East Lake bp connect - March 10, 2001

It was a big deal for EV1 drivers to have a substantial charging network considering how the innovative cars had a meager 100-mile range on a full charge.  According to the club's website, there were 71 charging locations across the state, 33 of which were at some sort of Southern Company / Georgia Power site.  As indicated by this picture, I'm inclined to believe that Georgia Power had a hand in installing all of the charging stations listed on the club's website and was the sole reason Atlanta was one of six or so markets to receive the car (the others being in California and Arizona).

Courtesy EV Club of the South (archive.org) - East Lake bp connect - March 10, 2001

The inside of this gas station was just as wild as the café name indicated.  We are currently looking at the old coffee and drink area in the back left corner of the store . . .

Courtesy EV Club of the South (archive.org) - East Lake bp connect - March 10, 2001

. . . as well as the restaurant counter along the left wall.  While it's not a surprise that the graphics in this store didn't age well, I still wonder why the concept as a whole wasn't successful.  I'd be inclined to eat food from a convenience store if it was better than the roller-dogs or cardboard pizza found in most outlets today.

Courtesy EV Club of the South (archive.org)

The EV club's next meeting at the time of this web capture was on Halloween at none other than the Georgia Power headquarters.  I'm starting to notice a trend with this club . . . Interesting how 3 of the 4 officers had Southern Company email addresses as well.

Anyhow, I also find the note interesting which states "Because of recent events, security at the GPC building has been tightened substantially.  Please RSVP to Lew George if you are not currently working inside the GPC building."  I guess that goes to show how the September 11th terrorist attacks really shook up everyday life back in 2001.

To close out this post, I'm going to pass the keyboard over to The Sing Oil Sidekick to provide a bit more detail on the rise and fall of what is considered the first modern EV.

The EV1

Sing Oil Sidekick here!  As a huge electric vehicle (also known as EV) nerd, I am going to write up a brief overview of the fascinating history of EVs in the US, specifically focusing on the ill-fated General Motors EV1.  But before we dive into 90's car history, we need to take a step farther back almost 100 years earlier to learn about the original electric cars.

While I've never seen an EV1 in the wild (considering the bulk of them were crushed by GM), I've at least had the chance to lay eyes on one at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville.  This particular vehicle appears to have been leased by a Georgia Tech employee before being relegated to life in a museum.

The first American EV appeared on US roads in 1890 and could carry 6 passengers at a whopping 14 miles per hour.  As the car market blossomed, EVs were originally competitive with gasoline models.  EVs required no manual starting like a gas model, and when cars were so few and far between, so were gas stations!  It was therefore more practical for many people to charge their car at home than to have to hunt for fuel.  With the introduction of the low-cost Ford Model T in 1908, the end of the first EV age had begun.  EV sales peaked in 1912, coincidentally the same year that the automatic (internal combustion engine) starter was introduced.  By the 1930's, EVs were practically nonexistent on US roads; other than a few prototypes in the 1970's after the Arab Oil Embargo, the EV industry laid dormant until the 1990's . . .

Courtesy Kingoftheroad.net - EV1 charger

The GM EV1 was introduced in 1996 as a 1997 model year vehicle and lasted through the 1999 model year with a total of just over 1,100 units being produced during its short run.  The vehicle was only available as a lease (and could not be purchased outright) in select markets in California, Arizona, and oddly enough in Atlanta, Georgia, exclusively for Georgia Power employees.  The first generation (1997-1998) model had a lead acid battery and offered a range of 70-100 miles, and a 1999 refresh gave the second generation a nickel metal hydride battery (the same chemistry as the Toyota Prius) and increased the range up to 140 miles.  While not much by today's standards, this was a respectable EV range, and the car was only intended to serve a commuter market.  Another interesting detail was the inductive charging paddle that the EV1 used.  GM thought drivers may perceive exposed electrical leads as a safety risk, so they designed an inductive wireless charger for the car. A VHS-sized slot on the hood received a plastic paddle that had an induction coil in it, and this would charge the car in the same manner as a modern wireless charger for a cell phone or smart watch.

Fun fact, the EV1 is still the only vehicle to be sold directly under the GM brand, as opposed to their brands like Chevrolet, GMC, or Cadillac, and was serviced exclusively at Saturn dealers.  The EV1 was considered to be the flagship model of the second EV era in the US and appeared alongside models such as the Ford Ranger EV and Toyota RAV4 EV.  What brought about this short-lived EV renaissance in the late 90's and early aughts you might ask?  We have the California Air Resources Board or CARB to thank for that.

Courtesy Kingoftheroad.net - EV1 dashboard

The US Clean Air Act permitted California to set its own vehicle emissions standards beginning in 1970, and CARB is the agency which determines these state-specific standards.  This is due to California being home to ~10% of the US population and vehicles in an area of only 4.3% of the US.  Additionally, the Los Angeles metro frequently experienced low air quality due to its plethora of vehicles combined with unfavorable mountainous geography that traps pollution and smog over the city.  No other states are allowed to make their own standards, but states are allowed to sign onto the CARB-established rules.  Some examples of these states following California's vehicle standards include Oregon, Washington, Virginia, and New York, though most of these states did not sign on until the early 2010's which also coincides with the beginning of the third and current EV era (more on that below).  Beginning in 1990, CARB implemented a program known as the Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate which required the seven large automakers selling cars in the state to sell 2% of their vehicles as ZEVs.  There were additional rules where automakers exceeding this 2% could sell credits to others who did not achieve the goal, but that is beyond the scope of this article (though I will point out that ZEV credits are a major source of revenue for Tesla to this day).  After many revisions to the ZEV mandate in the mid to late 90's, a small demonstration fleet of EVs also known as "Compliance Cars" began to appear on the road, including the EV1.  The era was short lived, however, when most carmakers failed to meet the targets and after many court battles, the CARB rolled back the ZEV target substantially. With that, the stage was set for the demise of the EV1.

Who Killed the Electric Car?

Following the discontinuation of EV1 production, GM confiscated all the vehicles at the end of their lease terms, and most were sent to the crusher.  Approximately 40 EV1s had their internal drivetrain components removed and were donated to museums and universities, with the only fully functional car being given to the Smithsonian.  Based on this harsh and even spiteful end to the EV1, the devoted drivers cried foul.  Theories swirled online that GM crushed the cars because they knew the advent of a modern EV industry would "crush" their business model.  The controversy even served as the subject for a documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?"  I will not wager a guess as to the reasons GM rounded up the EV1s, but in comparison, Ford and Toyota let customers purchase their Ranger EVs and RAV4 EVs and some continue to operate to this day over 20 years later.  Additionally, I can't imagine why GM felt the need to "brick" the few survivors which made their way to museums and universities.  How much harm could a driveable museum piece do other than appearing on an episode of Jay Leno's Garage?!?

Courtesy Kingoftheroad.net - The EV1 required a PIN code to "crank" rather than a physical key.

After roughly 10 years of dormancy, the third and current EV era began in the late 00's and early 2010's with vehicles such as Tesla's Roadster and Model S, Nissan's LEAF, and Chevrolet's Volt and Bolt. These vehicles kicked off the revolution we have witnessed over the past 10 years which has brought about EVs with ever longer ranges stretching into the 400+ mile territory, nationwide fast chargers, and additional classes of vehicles including pickup trucks and large SUVs.  In contrast, recent days have seen automakers begin to backtrack on their EV commitments (hmm, where have we heard that story before?).  Ford has scaled back its production plans for the F-150 Lightning and GM has pushed back the introduction of the Silverado EV and Equinox EV.  But drivers are beginning to support EVs more and more.  As of Q2 2023, plug in vehicles represented over 8% of new car sales in the US.  When GM announced the death discontinuation of their popular and affordable Bolt EV (could this be the EV1 reincarnated!?!), customers raised enough of a fuss that they quickly did an about face and said the Bolt will be reintroduced with updated Ultium battery technology.  As the market matures, more capable and affordable EVs are appearing on the road every day.  Hopefully this time, EVs are here to stay for good.

I am grateful to have been able to see a (nonfunctional) EV1 at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, GA, including its Southern Company-branded inductive charger. Additionally, a red one was found in an Atlanta parking garage in late 2019.  My research deep dive has led me to have a pretty solid guess of where the car is/was, but I will follow the example of the article's author not to share the exact location for risk of the car being found and vandalized.

To make our way out of my EV rabbit hole, I want to clarify that I am not a "Tesla fan boi" who would advocate for gas cars to be completely banned.  I think EVs have a long way to go before they are even technologically ready to replace all vehicles, and even if they were, I defer to consumer choice over strict regulation in the market.  Plus, I never want the S.O.B. to have a shortage of gas stations to visit!  I also think there is much potential for a more diverse offering of EVs including plug in hybrids (PHEVs) which offer the ability to drive on electricity for up to 40-50 miles before switching to gas power such as the Toyota Rav4 Prime or the (discontinued) Chevy Volt.  In a world with scarce battery minerals and a tight EV supply chain, I think a PHEV with 80-100 miles of range plus a gasoline engine would provide a very compelling market and business case.  Automakers are also taking note, with GM's CEO Mary Barra announcing in a January 2024 earnings call that GM would be pivoting its EV strategy to include PHEVs in the interim years while "remain[ing] committed to eliminating tailpipe emissions from our light-duty vehicles by 2035."  This could reduce air pollution by a large margin without drastically driving up prices for consumers and would not impede the ability to take a classic American road trip or use the vehicle in rural settings.  Overall, I think EVs are a fascinating technology with many advantages, and I hope the industry continues to grow so that more and more people of all types have the choice between a gasoline or electric car in their driveway.

bp shop convenience store featuring early-2000's styling - Cumming, GA

 Anyway, that will do it for this week on The Sing Oil Blog, but make sure to connect back with me in two weeks to see where we'll end up next.

Until then,

 - The Sing Oil Blogger & The Sing Oil Sidekick