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Dodge City Petro Travel Plaza Excels at Retail

Posted in: Truckstop Travels

Editor's note: Darren Schulte, NATSO vice president of membership, frequently visits NATSO members to review their locations and offers impactful merchandising and operations improvements. Contact Schulte at or (915) 526-5820 to learn more about the costs and details of this service.

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Keith Wade, vice president of operations at Dodge City Petro in Dodge City, Alabama, has an extensive background in the retail industry, and it shows. When I visited the location, I was struck by how well Wade and the location’s owner, Jim Hays, manage SKUs, theme the location and draw in customers with their unique offerings. 

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They’ve found their niche, and they’ve carefully selected each of the items they offer. I’m usually one to favor reducing SKUs at a location, but Dodge City goes the opposite direction and it works because they know their customers and understand why they have each of the SKUs they carry. 

To find unique products that he can use to differentiate the location, Wade attends gift shows. His favorite is in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and it features 3,000 vendors.

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He doesn’t let vendors control his stores and he recommends operators try to take 20 percent of their store and make it their own. Wade also makes it a point to carry the best from each of his suppliers, very much like a large format store. He isn’t just carrying products from one vendor because it is easier and he doesn’t let vendors control his stores. He has identified what he feels each of his vendors does well and makes it a point to carry their top items. He is a single store, but he deals directly with a vendor when he can if that makes more sense.

What’s more, Wade looks for products you won’t see at every truckstop. He might talk to Hasbro or Mattel potentially about products they would sell in their boutique stores versus mass market in a Walmart because he knows he can’t compete at price.

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Having a successful retail operation depends on customer service, and Dodge City excels in this arena as well. Everywhere I went throughout that store before anyone knew who I was, they were asking me if they could help me. Wherever you go in that operation, employees are greeting you or thanking you for being there. Dodge City Petro is another example of a NATSO member taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary.

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Dodge City does fundamental retail right, but it doesn’t stop there. There are so many good things going on at Dodge City Petro I couldn’t fit them in on one post, so this is part one of a three-part series on the location. Next week we will feature specific details on how the location taps into theme and departments to spur sales and attract customers. 

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/// Did you know most weeks can find Darren Schulte, NATSO's Vice President of Memebrship,visiting a NATSO member truckstop location, spending three to four days, using his merchandising and operations expertise to help them grow their business? Learn about NATSO’s Profitable Retail Review program here.


Photos Credit: Darren Schulte/NATSO

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About the Author

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte

Darren Schulte serves as Vice President of Membership at NATSO. In this role, he directs recruitment, retention and customer service for truckstop and travel plaza members. He is also responsible for developing NATSO products and programs, particularly those relating to education, research and training for truckstop and travel plaza operators.

Schulte also leads NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program. A Profitable Retail Review is a custom assessment of your truckstop, including recommendations for every aspect of your facility, from actionable ideas to improve revenue to tactical ways to improve your net operating costs. Learn about NATSO's Profitable Retail Review program here.

Schulte joined NATSO with nearly three decades of experience in truckstop and travel plaza operations and merchandising. Schulte has worked for: 

  • Love's Travel Stops and Country Stores,
  • HESS Corporation, 
  • Petro Stopping Centers, and
  • TSC Global/Barjan LLC.