ST. LOUIS — After nearly two decades, Amoco gas stations are returning to St. Louis, and as a result, the brand’s iconic sign at the city’s edge will be updated.
The sign has towered over the corner of Clayton Road and South Skinker Boulevard since 1932, serving as a guidepost, a road trip stopover and a source of local lore. Even after BP bought Amoco 20 years ago, the sign remained.
“It’s been here a very long time,” said Darryl Rodenberg, the operator of the service station.
And now Rodenberg’s station under the sign, for years a BP, has been redone as well.
It’s the first Amoco to return to the city in almost two decades.
BP bought the company in 1998 in a $48.2 billion deal and, by 2001, the brand was “pretty much out of the marketplace,” said Michael Abendhoff, director of media affairs for BP America.
BP reintroduced Amoco as a complementary brand in 2017, and began establishing Amoco stations in the U.S.
Today, Abendhoff said, there are close to 150. BP expects that there will be four or five operating in St. Louis by the first quarter of 2020.
“We did a lot of research across the Midwest,” Abendhoff said. “And there was still a lot of brand equity left.”
The Amoco branding can be useful, Abendhoff said, if someone wants to establish a BP site a block away from an existing BP station. Rather than having two competing BP stations, one can use the Amoco name.
The sign above the station, first built in the 1930s, didn’t always advertise the famed Amoco brand St. Louisans recognize.
The very first sign illuminated the name “Standard Red Crown” in bright letters — the result of about 15,000 volts and 2,300 feet of neon tubing.
Some say that back in those days, pilots flying into what is now St. Louis Lambert International Airport used it for wayfinding. Others say that is local mythology.
In 1951, L.C. Stevenson, Rodenberg’s father-in-law, became the operator of the site, and the station has been run by his family ever since.
In 1959 the sign and the original service station were torn down, rebuilt, and updated with another Standard Oil sign.
Rodenberg started working at the station in 1992. A couple of years later he signed his first lease with Amoco and took over operating the station.
Rodenberg said the sign was last repainted in 1993. At that time, it was completely taken apart. The panels were taken down and painted separately. This time the sign will be painted in place.
Over the years, the Amoco sign has become somewhat of an unofficial landmark, not unlike the Anheuser-Busch eagle along Highway 40 (Interstate 64).
In a 2005 poll, 45% of Post-Dispatch readers said the Amoco sign was their favorite local sign, bested only by the 49% who pointed to the Budweiser eagle.
This fall, Rodenberg had the west side of the sign painted with its first coat of primer. The update, he said, will happen, “weather permitting, ASAP.”
“But it is the middle of November,” he added.
There will be an official ribbon-cutting in early December, Rodenberg said.
A directional landmark for most St. Louisans — “get off the highway at the big Amoco sign” — the 40-foot advertisement has towered since 1932