At left, Ajee Salkhi, whose family owns the Chevron station at 5 Ashford Ave., and at right, the Winterfest performance stage that the station sponsors. Photo at right by Gary Ferber.

Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about gas stations. They tend to be a fleeting transaction – we want it to be easy, quick and relatively cheap, all so that we can be on our way in a flash.

But for members of the Salkhi family, which has lived in Marin for decades, owned the Chevron station on 5 Ashford Ave. at East Blithedale Ave. since 2005 and been in business in Marin since 1983, they’ve long sought deeper ties to the Mill Valley community than being a significant generator of sales tax revenue, which accounts for as much as 8 percent of the City of Mill Valley’s budget.

“This is our community, our kids go to school here, and we are always looking for ways to connect with and support our neighbors,” says Ajee Salkhi.

In recent years, the Salkhis turned that quest into action. They began sponsoring the performance stage at the annual Winterfest celebration, which returns to the Downtown Plaza this Sunday, Dec. 2, featuring a massive slide, a visit from Santa in a fire truck, a full day of live entertainment and music, children’s activities, amazing local food and Tree Lighting and Menorah lighting ceremonies.

They also began supporting both with the Mill Valley Chamber’s Enjoy Mill Valley Fund, which seeks to support shovel-ready civic and community engagement projects throughout the 94941, as well as Kiddo, the Mill Valley Schools Community Foundation, which supports arts education and other programs throughout the Mill Valley School District.

They’ve done so with unique partnerships that go beyond one-off or even annual donations. The station donates one cent per every gallon of gas sold at the 5 Ashford station to both the EMV Fund and Kiddo, a sum that, in the case of the Enjoy Mill Valley Fund, adds up to approximately $10,000 per year.

“We’ve been thrilled to have the Salkhi family sponsor the performance stage at Winterfest, and our Enjoy Mill Valley Fund partnership has taken our efforts to raise money to support shovel-ready civic and community engagement projects to a whole new level,” says Mike Son, board chair of the Mill Valley Chamber. “To date, with the help of contributions from the Salkhis, the Outdoor Art Club and an array of generous donors, we’ve helped repair the Downtown Clock Tower, supported the restoration of the replica Gravity Car, made the free Movies in the Park series sustainable and bigger and better than ever and spearheaded a number of plantings and beautification efforts around town, with much more on the way.”

“The ongoing contributions from the Salkhi family’s Chevron station have been incredibly helpful in our efforts to support arts education and other vital programs within the Mill Valley School District,” adds Kiddo Executive Director Bill Lampl. “These sorts of partnerships are vital cogs in our community, and we’re very grateful.”

The Salkhis are in the midst of planning for their station’s future and are hoping to modernize the site.

“Structurally, the building hasn’t changed much at all since the 1950s, so we’d like to update it a bit, add a small car wash and make some environmental upgrades like recycled water,” Salkhi says. “There are quite a few nice benefits to the community.”
Salkhi says they also plan to move bathroom access inside, a move specifically driven by safety concerns in the aftermath of an early morning robbery at the station in February.

They’re awaiting a date on the calendar of the Mill Valley Planning Commission, and have been conducting extensive outreach to neighbors and local organizations like the Mill Valley Streamkeepers to inform them of the plans and solicit feedback.

“We’re excited for the next chapter of this station,” Salkhi says.

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