Family, Boots & Politics at the Bridges Travel Plaza

More than 300 drivers come through Bridges Travel Plaza in Cusseta, Ala., every day, and they don’t just come for food and fuel. Many of them stop in the Bridges’ family-run western store, Bridges Boot Outlet and Western Store, located across the street from the travel plaza.

DuWayne Bridges Jr. said, “Truckers love the western store.”

The merchandise in the western store not only attracts customers, but it also affords the location additional advertising money. Many of the brands in the store also offer co-op advertising, which the Bridges family uses to fund billboards and radio and TV ads for the travel plaza in addition to the western store. They also use their ads to reach out to local sports fans traveling to the Alabama/Auburn football game.

Patricia Bridges opened the western store and today she runs it with her daughter Karen. Not only does it sell western wear, such as cowboy boots and hats, but it also sells Priester’s Pecans, a local specialty. Built 12-15 years ago, the store includes some unique décor, including an old bank teller cage from the 1800s.

Bridges Travel Plaza was built in 1971 and today can hold 120 trucks in the parking lot. DuWayne Bridges Sr. and his wife, Patricia, own the location. They bought it in 1978 with former NATSO Chairman Lamar Perlis. Years later the Bridges family bought out Perlis to be the sole owners.

Their son DuWayne Bridges Jr. and daughter Karen Bridges Simmons also work at the location. Between DuWayne and Karen, the Bridges Travel Plaza owners are proud grandparents to nine grandchildren. As Bridges Jr. said, “When the kids were little, it wouldn’t be unusual to see a naked child running through the western store.”

In addition to members of the Bridges family, the location has 45 employees, 30 of whom are full time. Everyone is cross-trained on all the profit centers including the Subway and the western store. If it gets busy, this training allows staff to be distributed where it is busiest.

The location has very little employee turnover, and the mid-day waitress in the restaurant has been with the travel plaza since 1978.

When asked what he would tell someone trying to get into the business, Bridges Jr. said, “It is a 24-hour job. You have to be very committed to work hard, and in the beginning, you would need to work a lot of holidays. But we are blessed; [Bridges Travel Plaza] would not be possible without the incredible dedication of our associates.”

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This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazineStop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations and provides context on trends and news affecting the industry.

The magazine is mailed to NATSO members bimonthly. If you are a member and not receiving Stop Watchsubmit a request to be added to the mailing list. Not a memberJoin today or submit a request to receive additional information.

Amy Toner's photo

Amy Toner

Toner markets NATSO products, services and meetings. She is the content editor of NATSO's core websites, Stop Watch magazine and Highway Business Matters biweekly articles. In addition, she provides creative services across all departments. Toner joined NATSO in 2006. Prior to joining the association, she served as director of membership services at an association for ambulatory surgery centers. Toner lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and son. More
Source:
Stop Watch Magazine
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Bridges Travel Plaza

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