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Truck World Inc. Drives for More Growth

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HUBBARD, Ohio — When Tim Schubert talks about Truck World’s travel plazas, he likes to point out the showers.

Spacious by truck stop standards, the showers at Truck World’s original location in Hubbard have been voted the best along Interstate 80 by truck drivers, the vice president of operations of Truck World Inc. says.

“It’s just a small perk but it goes a long way with the drivers,” adds Erin Burke, president of Truck World Inc.

Truck World, which also operates six Shell stations and convenience stores and sells fuel wholesale, opened the North Jackson travel center – its second – in March.

“We see a need for it out this way,” Schubert says, “and we’re trying to grow our business.”

“We’re in development mode. We’re looking to grow the Truck World brand,” Burke says. “We just felt there was an excellent site and there was a need for a new travel plaza on 76.”

The original Truck World opened in 1971, Burke says, starting with selling gasoline and diesel fuel. Today the 40-acre campus has 15 buildings, including the 22,000-square-foot Truck World Mall main building that opened in 1978. In 1987, the service station was completely rebuilt and a Shell station opened.

The business offers fuel from the Shell, Gulf and Marathon brands as well as the diesel exhaust fluid newer trucks need. “So we have all of the fueling needs that truckers and over-the-road drivers and even tourists or locals may need through our service station,” Burke says.

Two years ago, 14 fueling lanes were added, bringing the total to 21. “Now the drivers don’t have to wait in line,” she points out.

The property has more than 25 tenants who lease retail, office and industrial space on the site and along Truck World Boulevard, many of which specifically serve the trucking industry and truck drivers.

“Over the years, it developed into more of a truck service plaza and mall with lot of different retail tenants,” Burke says. Among the tenants on site are Flynn’s Tire & Auto Service, Burger King and Dunkin’ Donuts.

Truck World also operates The Globe Restaurant, a TraveLodge hotel, an onsite pub, driver lounge, laundry service, state-certified scale, permit services and a physician who can perform physicals that drivers need to remain licensed.

Among the mall’s oldest tenants are JoJo’s Travel Store and Mr. Tool.

JoJo’s has been at Truck World since it opened, says its vice president, Kelly Burke. Her family is related to the owners of Truck World but JoJo’s is a separate operation her father started that has stores in Pennsylvania and Indiana as well.

“We have over 5,000 items in the store,” she says. Offerings range from convenience store staples to “all the traveling accessories that any four-wheeler or 18-wheeler on the road would need while traveling.”

Rich Slifko, manager at Mr. Tool, has been with the store for some 20 of the 35 years the store has been there. Truckers represent most of the shop’s business, although it also sells locally, mostly to industrial customers.

“Our specialty is big trucking and heavy equipment,” Slifko says. “We keep specialty tools nobody else stocks.”

One of the newer tenants, Fone Fixers, has been on site about a year, reports owner Rob Horner. The shop repairs devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers, he says, as well as selling accessories and performing updates.

“I joke that I haven’t probably fixed something from every state but I’ve got to be getting close,” he remarks. He also says he wants to move into 3-D printing custom cases for people’s phones and other mobile devices.

One advantage he offers customers is convenience, he says. Where else is a trucker with a broken device going to get it repaired, he asks. “You can’t park at the mall,” he notes. “What are you going to do? Wait until you get back to where you were to get another phone?”

Freedom Thirteen Cycle recently marked three years at Truck World Mall. The shop sells leathers and other supplies for motorcycle riders, “everything but the bikes,” says co-owner Holly Winwood.

Business at the shop is split 50-50 between truckers and local customers. “It used to be more truckers until the locals started realizing we were here,” she says.

Truckers Kim Grimm and John Jaikes were both pleased during a recent visit to Truck World.

Grimm, of Poynette, Wis., said her recent stop was the first in several years.

“The food was excellent this morning,” she remarks. She also was pleased with the gift shop and tool store and the size of the bathrooms. “It is a really nice stop,” she says.

Jaikes, of Nanticoke, Pa., generally stops twice each year at Truck World. He agrees that the bathrooms were “clean and huge.”

From the opening of Truck World, Erin Burke has emphasized on having and maintaining clean, spacious showers for truckers, “which is pretty rare compared to some of the other chains,” she says.

At North Jackson, Truck World has tried to improve on the showers. Each shower at that location offers 60 square feet, compared to 100 square feet at Hubbard and 70 to 80 square feet on average at most other truck stops.

“Size is important,” says Schubert, who has worked at Truck World 20 years. “Drivers are away from home for weeks at a time. We tried to design our showers to make them feel a little like home.” Other features are water massage heads on the showers, marble walls and bright LED lighting.

The travel center, on 11 acres, offers 12 islands that pump gasoline and eight that pump diesel fuel as well as a state-certified scale, Schubert says. A Burger King has opened and plans call for opening a deli there. It also has a large convenience store and coffee bar.

Truck World has 15 employees on site, not counting the Burger King.

The Hubbard Truck World sees some 1,000 customers per day and about 300 work there, Schubert reports. So far the North Jackson plaza has met or exceeded expectations.

“We’re happy with it,” Burke affirms. As yet there are no specific locations in mind for additional Truck World plazas, she says. Another aspect of the business is working with service stations to convert their brands.

One reason the North Jackson site was chosen was to address the congestion at the Route 46 exit of Interstate 80, Schubert says. Drivers who stop at the Hubbard plaza talk about difficulty of getting on and off at the 46 exit.

“One of the reasons we chose this location was to alleviate that problem,” he says. “We believe this could be one of the nicest travel centers in the country with our showers and with the interior design of the store.”

VIDEO:
‘3 Minutes With’ Tim Schubert, VP of Operations

Pictured at top: Tim Schubert, vice president of operations of Truck World Inc.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.