Focus on Fizz

Pops 66 on Route 66 puts soda first at new Okla. station/store/restaurant combo

Greg Lindenberg, Editor, CSP

ARCADIA, Okla. -- Fond memories of soda pop and Route 66 have led Aubrey McClendon, the chairman and CEO of natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corp., to a new business venture that combines them with a different kind of gas.

Earlier this month, McClendon opened Pops 66 on Route 66 in Arcadia, Okla. It is first and foremost a purveyor of carbonated beverages of many brands. But it is also a gas station with a full convenience store and restaurant, marketing manager Jessica Ockershauser told CSP Daily News.

And one of the most [image-nocss] prominent features of Pops 66 is the 66-ft. pop bottle, a steel sculpture lit with Times Square-quality LED luminosity.

The store was supposed to have a soft opening, Ockershauser said, but if [opening day] was any indication, there is going to be nothing soft about it. We were packed all day long. We had a line of 20 people waiting for us at 5:20 a.m. We're open from 5:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. We're scheduling a grand opening weekend for August 24-26.

The station has 12 dispensers, offering unbranded gasoline and diesel supplied by Star Fuels of Oklahoma LLC. And it offers hundreds of soda brandsincluding Pops' own Round Barn Root Beerwith sampling.

Along with the gasoline and soda, it is a full-service restaurant and a full-service convenience store, with all of the amenities that you'd find in any convenience storethe chips, the dry goods, the milk, sandwiches, beer, cigarettes and magazines. We also have Pops 66 and Route 66 merchandise, as well as some merchandise from some local 'made-in-Oklahoma' vendors, she said. The store is finalizing the paperwork for the sale of lottery tickets.

Pops 66 is not affiliated with Chesapeake Energy in any way, though. It's a private investment, she added. Right now, Aramark is doing all the operations.

McClendon has a lot of real estate in Oklahoma, and he has other private investments, but this is the first retail venture, she added He has owned the land on Route 66 in Arcadia for quite a while. There used to be a gas station there that closed down. He knew there was a demand and a need for a gas station. And he wanted to have a little fun with it. Since it's on Route 66, he wanted to do something a little bit more unique and special and make it more of a destination, and so he partnered with Rand Elliott, a local but nationally known architect. They brainstormed Pops.

There are no plans to expand at this time. It's a destination, and we don't want to turn a destination into a chain. We have out hands full with the one location, Ockershauser said.

Click here to view the Pops 66 website.

It is also a founding sponsor of OklaTravelNet. Click here for its virtual tour of Pops 66.