This site went through many phases before becoming one of the Opitz Outlet buildings.  It may have been owned by Peter Lyon in 1926.


Although we don’t know the year that the original building was built, a 1962 ad says that the station was established in 1928.  This was evidently the site of one of Robert Johnson’s early gas stations; we know that in 1931, Robert Johnson made an addition to his stucco gas station at this site.



From 1938-56 it was owned by George L. Brooks and Robert J. Brooks.  It was variously listed as Brooks Service and Hardware (1939-45), Brooks Lunch and Soda Bar (1939), Brooks Sandwich and Coffee Shop (1941), and Brooks Service Station (1942-47). From very early on this was no ordinary gas station.  The ad below from 1942 shows that you could get wheat cakes with your gas and oil, an early forerunner of today’s service stations.



A 1945 ad shows three bays and two pumps at the stone gas station building.  It was always a Cities Service.




From 1946-47 the station had three pumps. George Brooks apparently closed his restaurant and petitioned to transfer his pinball license to Ray and Arnie’s at 4336 Excelsior on the other end of the block.

In June 1948 George L. Brooks requested a “hawker’s license” to sell pop, popcorn, and sandwiches from a trailer in the street.


In 1949 it was K&R Cities Service, Chuck Kinser, Harold Roberts.


The 1953 Echowan advertised it simply as Cities Service.


The 1956 Echowan advertised this as Brooks Service Station.





In 1958 a new building was built and it became Hamilton’s Cities Service, run by Warren “Bud” Hamilton.  Hamilton was in the Optimists Club and in 1959 and 1960 sponsored an Optimists Club Gas Station Day, where club members would wait on customers.  Proceeds went to club projects such as the Aquatic Club and bicycle safety.





In 1961 it was Brown’s Cities Service.  At the beginning and the end of 1961 the station was advertised for lease by a Mr. Wahl.


In 1962 it was Rudy’s Cities Service:  “Established in 1928.”


At one point it was Bob Johnson’s Cities Service.


Jeff Lonto tells us that Cities Service became Citgo in 1965, and Citgo pulled out of the area in 1966.






From 1965 to 1969, the building functioned as an office building.  But don’t be fooled.  The paper will tell you that 4300 Excelsior Blvd. was the address of these business:

  • Lakes Employment Agency  August 1962 to February 1970
  • Gopher Employment Agency March 1970 to February 1973

The fact is, these employment agencies were actually at 4300 36 1/2 Street, in a place called the McBee Building.  But who’s going to find that?  So they fudged a  little.  And you went to find a job and ended up at a gas station (or an office building) and the nice people told you where the McBee Building was.  Minnesota Nice.




From 1969 to 1970, the building was one of a few locations of Four Flags.  Four Flags was a local franchise that provided takeout and delivery of Chinese, Mexican, Italian, and American food.  The company had an ambitious expansion plan, engineered by Robert A. Humphrey, son of former Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, but the son left the company in July 1970 when the financials went south.  Four Flags International filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy in September 1970.




From February 1972 to July 1990, the building was the home of Big Hut/Clark’s Submarine Sandwich Shop, owned by Clark Armstead.


Clark's resize



This is a little hard to tell, but Clark’s is on the corner, then there is 36 1/2 Street, then the slanted McBee Building.





From the collection of Mark Youngblood





In the early 1990s, Lindly F. Opitz purchased the property from Armstead and it became part of his Opitz Outlet – for a long time the building still had the green stripe of Cities Service.


Photo from April 1992 courtesy Jeff Lonto


In 1994 the underground gas tanks were removed.