Don’t call it a gas station

36 Lyn offers local products, friendly staff and an endless stream of memes

Store manager Brooke Babb and co-owner Lonnie McQuirter
Store manager Brooke Babb and co-owner Lonnie McQuirter stand in front of the coffee bar at 36 Lyn. Photos by Alex Smith

36 Lyn isn’t your typical gas station. While “BP” may be branded across their gas pumps, they prefer if you don’t call them that. Staff say the business on the northeast corner of 36th & Lyndale is a refuel station trying to give their community local, organic products and the cheapest gas in town.

“We put it at the lowest price legally possible,” social media manager McCrae Olson said. “It’s usually the cheapest gas station anywhere. Gas stations will try and nickel and dime people, but my boss doesn’t care. He’s just trying to give back to the community.”

Since 2005, when the McQuirter family took over the 36 Lyn Refuel Station, it has transformed from a generic, somewhat rundown BP station to a clean place to grab a fresh-brewed Peace coffee or a lunch wrap from Afro Deli.

“[36 Lyn] is about being a place for people to come and commune,” co-owner Lonnie McQuirter said. “To not only give them energy drinks and chips but to give them a good start to their day and positive reinforcement.”

Over the past 14 years, McQuirter has helped make the store a go-to place for those in the neighborhood.

36 Lyn
McCrae Olson, 36 Lyn’s social media manager, says the refuel station’s gas sells for “the lowest price legally possible.”

Pam Christian is a longtime Lyndale resident and said she visits the store anywhere between three and five times a week. She knows many of the cashiers by name, as well as their backstories. “I know way more information [about 36 Lyn] than any place I shop,” she said with a laugh.

Christian said that 36 Lyn gives the neighborhood a corner store presence that attracts all kinds of people from the surrounding community.

“They made a whole big difference in this neighborhood,” Christian said. “It just exhibits that they are a good business with a big heart.”

Tammy Boots, who lives in Central, found 36 Lyn more than eight years ago and has been a supportive customer ever since.

“It’s a great place to support a black-owned business while getting fantastic service and goods,” she said.

The store stocks its shelves with a selection of locally brewed kombucha.

Although 36 Lyn does offer chips, soft drinks, candy and other classic road trip goodies, many of the items for sale come from locally owned businesses. In the freezer, they have frozen Mucci’s pizza. The cooler is lined with beverages from local favorites like Five Watt Coffee, Northstar Kombucha and Lake State Kombucha. On the shelves, they sell kale chips, Equal Exchange organic teas and Freak Flag Foods’ sauces, among other organic and local offerings.

“We have stuff you’d never find at a regular gas station,” Olson said. “We want to provide some decent food that’s not just Top Ramen.”

Local food offerings aren’t the only way 36 Lyn sets itself apart from other stores. Olson curates a fine collection of memes for the store’s Instagram account (@36_lyn), which has more than 8,000 followers. Occasionally, a post will bear tangential relation to 36 Lyn’s business model — e.g., a screenshot of a news story about a 4-year-old who drove an SUV to a gas station to buy candy — but the account is just as likely to share a photo of the gorilla Harambe, a joke about Willie Nelson or a short video of a $100 bill folded as if Benjamin Franklin were smiling.

“I see the social media as a way of giving back,” Olson said. “You know, it doesn’t cost anyone anything to follow us and laugh.”