During The NATSO Show 2015 the NATSO Foundation presented the industry’s Hall of Fame Award to William (Bill) Sapp, the co-founder of Sapp Bros. Travel Centers Inc.
NATSO President and Chief Executive Officer Lisa Mullings presented Sapp with the award during the show’s kickoff event in recognition of Sapp’s participation in his community, the truckstop and travel plaza industry and in NATSO.
Former NATSO Chairman Roger Cole said, “Although there are many aspects of Bill’s career that have been noteworthy, his greatest legacy will be his contribution to the people of our industry. Bill has played the role of a great mentor and teacher to so many of us in the industry and the impact of those actions will resonate for years to come.”
Mullings said, “Bill has always supported NATSO and his fellow operators. From the beginning he has been willing to share information and guidance, whether it is through a quick phone call with a friend or during an industry meeting.”
In the 70s, even with the opening of Interstate 80 still three years away, Sapp and his three brothers realized the business potential of the nation’s largest super highway and bought some property. They originally considered putting a GMC dealership on it, but then learned the dealerships were county specific, so it wasn’t an option. They started to consider a truckstop, and Sapp reached out to others in the industry, talking with several operators who shared information about the business and what was working for them.
Upon accepting his award, Sapp said, “Everyone I visited, I was going to be their competitor, but they helped me with lots and lots of things. I never had one of them who wasn’t very friendly and cooperative and helpful. They told me about the problems they had and how I could avoid them.”
The Sapp brothers moved forward with their truckstop, and their first location opened on June 7, 1971. By 1978, a second truckstop had been constructed in Council Bluffs, and the company was on its way. Today, Sapp Bros. operates 16 travel centers with locations in Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Utah, and Wyoming, and the company is developing its 17th location in Kansas City, Missouri. Sapp continues to be chairman of the board of Sapp Bros. and is in the office almost every day.
Dave Shoemaker, president of Shoemaker’s Travel Plaza, said, “I have always looked up to Bill and in many ways fashioned my life from his. I have laughed until I have cried with him, went door to door campaigning for him when he ran for a state Senate position, and if I have ever had a question, he always made me feel comfortable in calling him and that he had time to talk with me.”
Don Quinn, president of Sapp Bros., said Sapp has always said that there are three things in business: your customers, your employees and cash flow. Quinn said Sapp has always cared for his employees and puts them first. He has been very generous in allowing people to own stock in Sapp Bros. and has created a profit sharing program, allowing staff to benefit as the company has grown. Quinn said, “Bill is known for asking his staff, ‘How can I help you? What can I do?’”
Former NATSO Chairman Dan Alsaker said Sapp truly embodies his faith. He said, “Bill’s heroics stem from his vigilant Christian beliefs and their application in this chaotic business.”
Sapp is currently active and financially supportive of Jail & Prison Ministries, the Gideon’s organization, Men in Mission, Youth for Christ and Christian Men’s Business Committee. Sapp personally furnishes in excess of 100,000 Bibles and New Testaments per year to missionaries in developing countries.
Within the community, he supports countless organizations with both his time and expertise and financial contributions. He has served on numerous community and business boards, including Boys Town Board of Directors and Wells Fargo Business Advisory Board, and he supports community organizations financially. He is a lifetime member of the SERTOMA club, an organization dedicated to assisting people with hearing health issues, and he has served in many officer capacities throughout the years for the club. Most recently Sapp Bros., Sapp and his wife, Lucille, made sizeable donations to the Greater Omaha YMCA building campaign.
In addition to being a large part of NATSO, Sapp has been active in the Nebraska Petroleum Marketers Association for over 40 years. Mullings said, “Our industry, NATSO’s members, the state of Nebraska and the world have benefitted from Bill’s generous nature and wisdom. He truly embodies all that the Hall of Fame Award stands for and I am honored to present him with it.”
This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazine. Stop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations.
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The NATSO ShowPhoto Credit: Chuck Fazio/NATSO
Additonal Photos Credit: Sapp Bros. Travel Centers Inc.
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