A Royal Flush: Quest for Excellence Drives Reporter to Bathroom Backwater by Peter Bennett

May 5, 2010
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Normally, I don’t drive 30 miles round trip from La Verne to West Covina to go to the bathroom, although at my advanced age of 55, trips to the restroom take on more urgency.I was actually writing a piece on “excellence” and I recalled the luxurious loo off the San Bernardino freeway inside a gas station mini-mart at 206 N. Vincent. Its elegance and over-the-top opulence was a shining example of building your business by doing more for your customers.

The bathroom has a Vegas Tuscany feel to it. Who knew?

The bathroom has a Vegas Tuscany feel to it. Who knew?

Most gas station restrooms, as you know, are biological hazards not to be visited, like Three Mile Island or the Love Canal (am I dating myself?).

My biggest concern was whether this posh potty was still there. Indeed after I called the station, which has changed logos from Chevron to 76 since my last visit, clerk Dawn Tarver invited me back for a reunion.

Twenty minutes later I eagerly pulled into the station and walked into the mini-mart. Imagine my ecstasy when I didn’t see an “out-of-order” sign on the bathroom door.

If you’re not familiar with this regal restroom, it is truly a sight to behold. A chandelier sparkles overhead from a recessed ceiling. Ornate silver columns rise from the Italianate slate floor to support a wide granite counter and extend to a soffit that conceals recessed lighting. With all the gold leaf accents, if you blink your eyes, you feel like you’re inside Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

Maybe, I’m getting carried away now, but remember, this a bathroom inside a gas station mini-mart. Enter at your own risk!

Outside the lavish loo lurks a nondescript 76 gas station.
Outside the lavish loo lurks a nondescript 76 gas station.

When I finally crossed into the inner sanctum, I was so in awe of the sight, I actually forgot to use the facilities.  “Next time,” I told myself. “Next time, I’ll do the royal flush.”

“People still come from all over to see and use our bathroom,” Tarver said proudly and cheerfully.

The bathroom may have lost a little of its luster, but compared with the road kill out there that substitutes for public restrooms, this place is still the Taj Mahal. It was part of a larger remodel about 20 years ago by then owner Paul Moghadan. He spent $5,000 on the unisex restroom alone.

Beginning his project, Moghadan told the Los Angeles Times’ Bob Pool, “I wanted to give the restroom the greatest look I could. I wanted to show how much I respect my customers.” He prevailed on his brother, Nassar Moghadan, an architectural designer, to create something motorists would remember.

You could also say Moghadan respected the bottom line. By pouring money into his powder room, he also pumped up his profits. In its heyday, Moghadan’s royal throne attracted about 20 compliments a day from surprised motorists.

On the way out, I purchased a bag of pistachios for $2.49. It wasn’t much. My gas tank was still full, but Nassar’s lavish lavatory and shrine to cleanliness had brought me into his tent because he dared to do something different. He dared to be excellent.

Should you decide in your many travels to visit this roadside water closet, at 206 N. Vincent in West Covina (traveling west on the I-10 from La Verne, exit Vincent and turn right) , tell them www.laverneonline.com sent you. For a few short minutes, you’ll feel like a million bucks, and you won’t even feel the need to buy a lottery ticket.

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