BY JENNIFER BAILEY
Truck stops, now more regularly called travel centers, are consistently known for their food for local residents and the traveling public.
The Pilot Flying J opening at 6 a.m. Monday in Oakwood is no exception for its food choices.
The travel center, located at 503 N. Oakwood St., off Interstate 74 at exit 206, will have its grand opening celebration on Thursday, Aug. 22.
From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 22, the Pilot Flying J family, which employs 80 people at this location, invites the public to join them for the celebration featuring free samples of the fresh food from the new fast dining concept, PJ Fresh Marketplace.
A portion of the proceeds from the grand opening will go to the Oakwood Food Pantry.
Anne LeZotte, communications manager with Pilot Flying J, said the Oakwood travel center will be just the fourth one with a PJ Fresh Marketplace. Other PJ Fresh locations are in Georgia, Texas and Arkansas.
PJ Fresh offers home style meals where customers can choose meatloaf, barbecue ribs, roasted chicken or another option and have a choice of two sides too.
PJ Fresh also offers breakfast platters and sandwiches, steel cut oatmeal and breakfast burritos.
There also is a Cinnabon serving cinnamon rolls, frozen yogurt bar with toppings, in addition to cheeseburgers, cold sandwiches, salads, hot dogs and other hot foods.
The travel center has 28 flavors of fountain drinks, eight fresh brewed flavored teas, seven flavors of cappuccino and seven specialty blends of coffee.
“It’s a new concept,” LeZotte said about PJ Fresh. “A lot of the drivers were asking for fresh food.”
“It’s fast dining,” she added. “If they have the time, it just gives them a nice atmosphere to sit down and take a load off and enjoy a meal.”
LeZotte said in addition to the traveling public, the travel center also is convenient for local residents such as moms on the go needing a quick meal or some milk from the “everyday” convenience store.
“It’s a full Pilot Flying J Travel Center,” she said.
LeZotte said site has seven diesel lanes and 10 gasoline lanes with high-speed pumps for quicker refueling, seven showers and everyday products for quick shopping needs.
“It’s a beautiful facility,” said Oakwood Mayor Robert Jennings.
He said since the announcement was coming, he was “thrilled that the village was getting this.”
Jennings said the “first-class” site has a great cafeteria-style restaurant with indoor and outdoor dining areas, a lounge and beautifully-tiled showers for truck drivers, an RV station separate from other fuel pumps and diesel lanes, and other amenities.
In February, Oakwood village trustees approved running a water main on the property that was the Oakwood Truck Plaza for the Pilot Flying J. Funding came from the Oakwood tax increment district 1.
The new Oakwood facility is Pilot Flying J’s 38th in Illinois. In addition to the travel center adding 80 local jobs, it is expected to contribute more than $3.4 million annually in state and local tax revenue.
“We are excited to be a part of the community,” LeZotte said.
She added that customers can let them know what they think of the travel center and offer any suggestions through Pilot Flying J’s website at www.pilotflyingj.com and its Facebook page.
According to the Pilot Flying J website, the company was formed in 1958 and operates more than 600 travel centers and plazas throughout the United States and Canada.
Pilot Flying J travel centers contain a convenience store, restaurant, shower facilities as well as a fuel station.
Its mission is: Making Life Better for Drivers.
Pilot Travel Centers LLC and Flying J Inc. merged in 2010. The combination of two of the best-known brands in the travel center industry, offers customers an expanded network of interstate travel centers and travel plazas focused on superior customer service and enhanced offerings for trucking companies, professional drivers, RV drivers and traveling motorists, according to its website.
Travel and business conveniences designed with the professional driver in mind also include ATMs, internet kiosks, check cashing, money orders, laundry, game rooms, Western Union, pre-paid phone cards and truck washes.