Although most truck stops that dot highway off-ramps are owned and operated by large corporations, independent, so-called “mom-and-pop” truck stops offer many of the services the big chains do – and in many cases, a whole lot more. They may be a bit more out of the way and a little harder to find, but they have a priceless appeal that make the trip worthwhile. What do these places offer drivers that the bigger stops don’t? Here are the five great things that make these stops special and unique:
Top-notch service with a smile
Many drivers will tell how much they appreciate the hands-on service that a smaller truck stop provides. Most drivers appreciate the comfort of a home-cooked, sit-down meal from a mom-and-pop truck stop after days of fast food on the run.
Mom-and-pop truck stops who want to separate themselves from the pack should understand that drivers don’t have as many food choices as they’d like on the road – especially late at night after most restaurants close – and would travel out of their way (within reason) to sit down for a hot meal and friendly conversation. As driver Rusty Moss said at the Ambest annual meeting this past August, “Here we are making $100K a year and the only option we have is to eat crackers.”
After a long day on the road, there are few sights more welcome to a driver than a friendly face – and you’re much more likely to click with the staffers at a small, family-owned independent truck stop than you might with a shift worker at a larger chain. The best mom-and pop truck stops specialize in good food, better conversation, and making you feel like family when you visit. They’re more likely to remember your name and what you like to order, and drivers get to see familiar faces at a familiar place. During the Ambest annual meeting, driver Idella Hanse drove home the importance of making warm and genuine connections with others on the road. “At the end of the day, I like to talk to somebody,” she said. “Human contact is important.”
Understanding what truckers need
One great thing about frequenting mom-and-pop truck stops is that they’ve been around long enough to meet lots of truckers and have gained particular insights on what their needs are and how to meet them. Larger truck stop chains tend to dominate busy locations close to highway off-ramps, so staffers at mom-and-pop shops off the beaten path or in quieter highway locations know more about the areas they serve and where to find off-site services that truckers need on the road, like cleaner showers, hot meals, hidden parking options, and other important services.
Supporting small businesses
Many truckers, especially owner operators, have soft spots for mom-and-pop truck stops because they have a special appreciation for the challenges associated with running a small business. Truckers appreciate any opportunity they might have to support a local business because they know their dollars have a larger impact at a mom-and-pop shop than it would at a larger chain stop. On a more personal note, many drivers also feel a kinship and solidarity with the families that often run smaller truck stops. As driver Jeff Barker told Overdrive Online, “You never know, the waitress may be the owner’s daughter and he or she may be back there on the grill cooking. These places provide jobs for their communities and a place for families to grow up.”
Things you won’t see every day
Certain mom-and-pop truck stops are worth the trip because they’re amazing destinations in their own right. Many of these stops simply offer things that others don’t. Pedro’s Truck Stop in South Carolina, for example, offers the usual services like hot coffee, showers, and a large trucker’s lounge – and an actual motocross gear store. And it also happens to be part of the world-famous South of the Border roadside attraction along I-95, which features everything from an amusement park to a tower arcade to the largest indoor reptile display in the U.S. If that isn’t enough, Whiskey Pete’s Stateline Stop in California has an adjoining casino and resort that features live entertainment and a popular “Bonnie and Clyde” exhibit.
Download the Relay mobile app for more on where to find parking, fuel, and the creature comforts that make such out-of-the-way trips so worthwhile for drivers. And if you’d like to see how you can attract more drivers to your location, take Relay's Truck Stop Desirability Assessment to learn more about how your stop ranks and where you can improve.