Sprint Mart has opened a new, state-of-the-art location in Vance, Alabama—about 15 miles east of Tuscaloosa—creating a destination for professional drivers and locals alike. The site features a 16,000-square-foot property built in a V-shaped format. One side of the V houses a 150-seat restaurant, Sadie’s Diner, while the other half is a traditional Sprint Mart convenience store.
“This is the biggest of the biggest that we've ever built before,” said Herb Hargraves, chief operating officer for Sprint Mart.
During a recent episode of the Truck Stops Here podcast, Hargraves said the goal was to create a destination location that would appeal to a wide range of clientele. “That's why we built it so big and so grand,” he said.
The location hopes to attract employees from the Mercedes Benz factory across the street and features unique Mercedes memorabilia. Even the name Sadie’s Diner is a play off of Mercedes Benz.
“When you go inside the store, you'll see all kinds of really cool elements—pictures of old Mercedes Benz and new Mercedes Benz up on the walls, and we have these cool glass tables that the base of the table is a hubcap from Mercedes Benz that we turned into tabletops,” Hargraves said. “It really ties together what the Vance community is built on, which is the Mercedes Benz factory.”
The restaurant will also appeal to the 5,000-plus people who live in Vance, which had limited dining options. "There was no real place to go to eat and Vance. We had to travel all the way to Tuscaloosa,” he said.
The diner features meat and three options, which are ready-to-go and offer a quick, hot meal for customers in a hurry. “It just really kind of brings that down-home food in a quick type of format, especially for the Mercedes Benz workers,” Hargraves said.
All items on the Sadie's menu can be ordered as takeout. Plus, the bakery features holding mechanisms for to-go items, including fresh cookies, brownies, scones, cakes and cheesecakes. Sprint Mart also has a pizza program and a proprietary chicken program, Chix Chicken. “That's great for those customers who don't have time to wait because it's more of a hot box grab-and-go style,” Hargraves said.
Customers can order online, and Hargraves said he expects online orders to increase as customers get used to the system.
On the outside, Sprint Mart has a large forecourt with 16 pumps out front for the gasoline island and three back for the diesel side. “We made a really nice entrance for the diesel truckers when they come in the back,” Hargraves said. “So often, we don't pay attention to the signage elements on the back side of the building, but we tried to take advantage of that here,” Hargraves said, adding that signage promotes the location’s food offerings.
Going forward, Hargraves said that Sprint Mart has rebuilds or remodels planned for several of its locations and has some new-to-industry stores coming, too. “I can't give you a peek behind the curtain on that just as of yet, but we do have another planned in Alabama that's going to be a very similar concept,” he said. “More to come on that because it's going to be our first toe dip on paid parking.”
To listen to the full podcast, listen to Sprint Mart’s New Travel Center Is Extra Special here.
// This article was created for Stop Watch magazine, the magazine of the NATSO Foundation. The NATSO Foundation is the research, education and public outreach subsidiary of NATSO, Inc. The NATSO Foundation provides programs and products to strengthen travel plazas’ ability to meet the traveling public's needs through improved operational performance and business planning. Visit www.natsofoundation.org for more information. (Donate to the NATSO Foundation here.)
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