The Man Who Built a Gas Station Museum in His Home.
Reiff’s Gas Station
It’s a conversation I’ve had several times before and by now am used to it. I show up at a photo shoot and at it’s conclusion, someone there says “Before you leave, there is this guy I think you should meet.” And what follows is an insider tip about some enthusiast or destination that only the locals seem to know about. Mark Reiff and his Gas Station in Woodland, California (near the California Agriculture Museum) is just such a place.
Set back in a quiet residential neighborhood, Reiff’s Garage is an anomaly amongst the green grass lawns and flower beds of all the surrounding houses. Reiff’s Gas Station is pretty much exactly what is sounds like – a gas station – from the 1950s.
Mark Reiff, a Woodland native, started collecting 16 years ago with the purchase of a gas pump at a garage sale just around the corner for $75 at the behest of a local friend. But what really lit the fire was one day standing in his front living room looking outside at his white picket fence, grass lawn, and the sidewalk coming up from the street where he had the epiphany to create a 1950’s style gas station and diner around his house. Yes, Reiff’s Gas Station is also Mr. Reiff’s house.
52 Jefferson St.
Woodland, CA 95695
Phone: (530) 666-1758
- What prompted the first purchase?: A friend by the name of Sean Denny who also collected similar items like Mark did was responsible for helping prompt the pump purchase.
- How did the gas station start?: While standing in his front room looking out the window seeing a lawn, white picket fence and a sidewalk coming up the house and he thought it would be cool to have a 50’s style gas station. A friend of his had a few of the 50’s style gas pumps and in order to get them he traded his art for them. Mark does watercolor style art and traded some of his art for the two pumps he currently has in the front of his gas station in 2000.
- Now that he is open to the public, what does the public think?: People from all over the world have visited. Had 15 tour buses over the past 16 years. Car clubs have come through there when the weather is really nice during spring and summer. He could have situations where he has a ford mustang club pulls up at 10 a.m. and a Chevy club at 1 p.m. but generally they all get along if they meet up there at his station.
- As anything funny every happened there at the station?: When Mark was building the dinner part, heard a vehicle pull up after hearing the bells go off (old gas station “ding ding”), he witnessed a person getting out of his car and pulling out his wallet as if he was going to actually fill his car up with gas but also witnessed his wife in the side mirror telling him that it was not real. Mark also went outside and explained to him that the pump did not pump actual gas. Another occurrence happened just 3 days later where a woman also thought the gas station was real. On display he shows that gas per/gallon is 37 cents and people don’t realize it once they get out of their cars that the pumps are not real. Some people say that it was listed on Google however Mark has had to tell them that it is simply just a display and not a real pump. Also tour groups may sometimes arrive and ask if they can come in and his favorite response when they ask if they mind is “I didn’t mind my parents coming in so yes, you can come on inside.” Mark says that he has a great tie with everyone who comes to visit and in his opinion, the 50’s was the best time to grow up.
- So the 1950’s was the golden age of motoring here in the U.S?: Mark agrees that the 50’s was the best time for motoring in the U.S. by far. Mark at one point had the national enquirer do a story on him after September 11th 2001 and asked him why a 50’s style gas station to which he replied that back in that time you could leave your doors unlocked, people were not in a hurry like they are today and we didn’t have cell phone, computers and the technology we do today. Mark also said that you knew your neighbors and not just the ones next door but several blocks away as well. He said that there was about 25 kids he grew up with in a small 3 or 4 block radius. So he believes that the 50’s was the best time. People also had a love for their cars as well back in that time.
- Tell me what your neighbors think today?: Mark explained that a little old lady on the east side of town named Joan had asked Mark at one point what he was doing and he said to her that she was going to love what he was doing. When he was underway with it, she was very happy and liked the station very much. She liked it so much that once he was done with the diner part of it, she even went over to ask for a job and he had to explain to her that it wasn’t real and just a façade. People enjoy and are actually quite shocked that he lives in it. He says that when people call for a tour and they ask him when will you be there and he says that he’s there at that moment because he actually lives there. Some people have claimed that he is a very lucky man to be living there. He says that there is stuff in there for everybody, gear heads alike.
- So I understand that every year that you have a show?: Every 2nd Saturday in June he has a show.
- What is the theme of it and how big is it?: Mark says that last year that there was about 120 cars and approximately 900 people there. It is a potluck (bring your own food, drinks and chairs) and no entry fee to get in, all cars are welcome along with motorcycles, raffles, live music which is 50’s and 60’s style, and it is his 16th year doing this event. Reiff’s Annual Street Bash is what the name of the vent is called. Both streets are closed for this event since he is on the corner. A friend of his even travels and trailers his car from Las Vegas to attend the event. His friend fist came to it about 2 months prior to the event and entered his car into the show and actually won 1st
- What are some of the farthest places that visitors have come from to visit the gas station?: Mark says he’s had people visit from Denmark and he also stated that his gas station is a geo cache location. He had one woman visit from the bay area who had made the gas station her 1000th geo cache and wanted to take a picture with him. The visitors from Denmark however had done over 22,000 geo cache. He has had visitors from Hong Kong and he stated that Asians love the gas stationed and so interested in old American 50’s things so this place is right up their alley. Several exchange students have also come through especially from UC Davis. He also had a group of exchange students who had come through and he allowed on of the students to rev up his corvette that he had at the time.
- When it is just you and you are alone in the gas station, where do you go to hang out to take it all in?: Mark stated his front room and his bedroom in which people will still come through and parade through to see things and he even has a wood burning stove.
- Last question, What does the future hold?: Just waiting for the next party. He has rented out his backyard for parties and weddings before. He’s had everything from baby showers to weddings in the backyard.