Bethesda staple Eastham Exxon Servicenter will reopen Thursday at 7 a.m. under a new name at its Wisconsin Avenue location.
The station, which will be demolished to make way for a multifamily apartment complex, will remain open at 7100 Wisconsin Ave. until construction on the project begins in 18 months. Eastham’s is leasing the land from property owner Washington Property Company.
Eastham’s no longer sells gas; the station closed Oct. 1 when Exxon removed all gas tanks and associated equipment, but it will continue to service cars under the name Eastham’s Auto Service Center, said owner George Zinkler. He will search for a permanent location in Bethesda, where he hopes to celebrate Eastham’s 100th anniversary.
“We’re going to try to stay in our immediate market area, but obviously it will not be on Wisconsin Avenue,” Zinkler said. “That’s not going to happen. Property values are prohibitive.”
The station has called the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Leland Street home for 83 years, moving only when the site expanded to include the parcel next door. Washington Property Company, a developer and property management company based in Bethesda, is proposing to replace the station with up to 145 multifamily units, including 15 percent moderately priced dwelling units, underground parking, a cyber cafe, fitness center, and outdoor lounging area on the roof.
Zinkler said most Eastham employees, including General Manager Steve Embry and Service Advisor Tom M. Lake, will be returning. The two have worked side by side for decades.
“After two months it’s nice to be back,” said Lake. “I think the longest I ever took off was maybe three days.”
The station has been in the Eastham family since 1929. It was taken over by the younger Eastham, Bob, in the 1960s after his father, Robert Eastham Sr., had a heart attack.
When Bob died two years ago, Bob’s sister Ellen Zinkler and her husband George Zinkler took over the station.
Until it stopped selling gas Sept. 30, full service at Eastham’s came complete with window washing, tire pressure check, and a look under the hood.
The station has been noted in The Washington Post, Washingtonian, and other publications, and scored a series of customer service awards from the Washington, Maryland, Delaware Service Station and Automotive Repair Association. The station was taken out of the running after it won several years in a row, and the award was renamed in honor of Robert Eastham Sr.