Chicago to Phoenix

Self-proclaimed "road warrior" stops in at a convenience store near you

Linda Abu-Shalback Zid, Senior Editor

[Editor's Note: CSP reporter Linda Zid has migrated from the Windy City to the Southwest just in time to avoid another frigid Midwestern winter.] CHICAGO & PHOENIX -- As my husband and I made our way on our move from Illinois to our new home in Phoenix, it was inevitable that I'd want to stop at as many convenience stores as possible along the way. After all, it's not really a road trip without c-stores, is it?

What I didn't expect was just how fun it would be, looking at all the offerings that made each one on our journey so unique.

Pilot/Road Ranger, Springfield, Ill. A case full of CB radios clued me in that I wasn't at your "typical" c-store. Also catering to the real road warriors that frequent here was an abundance of coffees and creamers to choose from. An "Energy Center" and "Fresh N Sweet" pastries were available, too, so those warriors could keep on trucking. Just passing through? There was a plethora of Illinois souvenirs to take home to your loved ones, not to mention the large case of crystal figurines. Was Springfield your final destination? Why not get a little bit of an education, with laminated "quick-study" sheets offering up ways to "Teach Yourself PowerPoint" and the like.

Motomart, Valley Park, Mo. Outside, there were stacks of firewood, cluing me in that this location caters to locals. There was also a rack of work gloves to choose from, and a machine offering copies for 15 cents to add to that perception. It was nice to see that outsiders were welcome too, with offerings also including Missouri magnets for souvenirs. What really struck me about this location was the sign on the washroom door that said to "report any unsatisfactory conditions at pay counter," because somebody actually did just that while I was there. The clerk behind the counter jumped into action, and rushed to put an out-of-order sign in front of it. Then she got a mop bucket and took care of the situation, opening up the washroom again for use--all within the few minutes I had stopped in the store.

Macadoodles, Joplin, Mo. As we drove into Joplin, we could still see some of the devastation from the tornado that happened here in May. But we also saw a lot of bright, freshly constructed buildings, including the Macadoodles. A sign on the front of the store touted the "friendliest service around," and we got to see that firsthand.

At the gas pump, we were surprised when an attendant approached the car to fill it up. He was very nice, asking us about our trip, and getting extra points for admiring our dog. Next, we walked into the wine, beer and spirits wonderland that is Macadoodles. The store was immaculate, large and welcoming, with almost a lodgy feel. There was a nice wine-tasting center (comparable to ones I've seen at vineyards), a plethora of cheeses and a slew of unique gifts. Writing about tobacco has made me a little bit of a "tobacco geek" (as a certain tobacco category manager I know calls the phenomenon), and I had to ask about cigarette prices—knowing Missouri is the lowest-taxed state. Somehow, that turned into a discussion about the former "lights" packaging and about contracts, with the staff being very knowledgeable and nice—again reiterating the "friendliest service" moniker.

Love's, Hinton, Okla. There were lots of food options to choose from here, between the Godfather's pizza, Chester's chicken, Love's proprietary subs and jerky and the Sonic. And while there were showers and other trucker offerings, I was surprised that you could basically buy a whole wardrobe here, between the humorous t-shirts, purses, western attire and university-branded sweatshirts. I'll be back for shopping, if I'm every in Hinton again.

Maverik, Winslow, Ariz. We made "adventure's first stop" the last stop of our own adventure. It was a quick in and out as, being in the home stretch, we were now rushing to get to Phoenix. I did take in the intoxicating smells of burritos and what the company calls bundles, described as "warm toasty bread stuffed with all kinds of fresh meats and cheeses," as they were being made. But what was most striking was the mural that went around the store, with a winter theme on one side and a summer theme on the other, prominently displaying some of the brands the store carries in the great outdoors--a reminder of why the company is known for its unique marketing.


Danny's Gourmet Market. Phoenix, AZ. Now that I've settled into my new home, I actually had a very dire need to visit my local Danny's: The search for a TV guide, to program the DVR to catch up on my shows. My husband already had enjoyed their car washes, done partly by hand.

As I walked into the elegant stone-façade building for my own visit, I was promptly greeted by a smile and a hello from a nice young fellow. He didn't know if the Sunday paper here has the TV listings in it, but he was quick to pull one out and start looking. When another clerk comes by, he asks her. Moments later, she has opened a cabinet, pulled out the TV guide from her own personal newspaper and offers it to me, since she only gets the paper for the ads. They both give me huge smiles and wish me a wonderful night.

I can't explain it, but the experience makes me feel that much more like I'm in a community I can call home. Amazing how a c-store can help do that for you. … And I think I'm going to like it here.

Are you doing something you're proud of in your stores within driving distance of Phoenix? Would you like to invite the so-called road warrior to see? Please drop me a line at [email protected].