CLOVIS, N.M. -- Lonnie Allsup, who with his wife, Barbara, founded the Allsup's Convenience Stores chain in New Mexico, died on Jan. 28, reported the Associated Press. He was 84. The c-store chain now has more than 300 locations in New Mexico, West Texas and Oklahoma.
Both Lonnie and Barbara Allsup grew up in the small town of Morton, Texas, and they purchased a "drive-in" grocery store in Roswell, N.M., in 1956, naming it Lonnie’s Drive-In. From there, they grew Allsup's into a chain of 300 c-stores in 160 towns and cities.
The chain was among the first to offer 24-hour self-service gasoline and was an early implementer of selling foods freshly cooked on-site.
As the predecessor of the modern-day convenience store, a drive-in was open later hours and seven days a week, the chain said on its website. It was fully stocked and well-lit and served a neighborhood. In addition to staple c-store goods such as bread, milk and cigarettes, there was a large display of fresh fruit in season and a large display of soft drinks. Customers could pick up cold watermelons on ice from a horse-watering tank in the parking lot.
Lonnie and Barbara both worked in the store from opening to closing each day. The store had an open front, meaning the glass front of the building slid open like a garage, and merchandise was displayed on the porch.
The founders had a vision that prepared hot foods would sell in a drive-in. They prepared rotisserie chickens and ribs, sausage and doughnuts. Capitalizing on an opportunity to buy a second store in 1958, and a third store the following year, the business grew rapidly.
By 1964, with 12 stores located in three towns, the Allsup family accepted an offer to sell their chain to Dallas-based Southland Corp., then the parent company of 7-Eleven. Terms of the sale restricted the Allsups from operating stores that would directly compete with Southland for 10 years, prompting a move to Clovis, N.M. There they began again with one store, this time called Allsup’s Convenience Store.
They continued to center their business model on hot prepared foods and experimented with new items such as frozen drinks.
There was no self-service gasoline in 1967 in Allsup’s trade area, so they decided to try it.
The Allsup’s model proved successful, and growth was rapid. The stores were open 24 hours a day; all stores had self-serve fuel and hot prepared foods, including a new item, the fried burrito. Allsup’s had expanded its drink selection to include fountain drinks, which took too much of the clerks’ time to make. As another industry innovation, to solve that problem, the stores turned the drink machine around so the customer could make their own.
Allsup’s had grown to 100 stores by 1977, propelled by the Allsup’s Burrito, self-serve fountain drinks and gasoline.
Based in Clovis, Allsup's sells fuel under the Alon, ConocoPhillips, Exxon and Allsup’s private-label On the Go brands.
Survivors include wife, Barbara; son, Mark (Jessica); five grandsons; two great-grandchildren; and nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his son, Todd; his parents; two brothers; and three sisters.
CSP sends condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.