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Cable channel discovers and highlights Petro Ocala’s many attributes

By on September 18, 2015

Truckers fueling up or enjoying some downtime recently at the Petro Ocala were surprised when they found themselves on the receiving end of a camera crew’s attention. And as always, the drivers were good sports.

“We had a crew here from Lifetime’s The Balancing Act, showing how truckstops have changed over the years, and have travel centers with shopping areas, a really good restaurant, all that,” says Mike Metz, store general manager. “They caught a whole cast of characters when they were here, and it was a lot of fun.”

The filming was also a good opportunity to show off all the renovations Petro Ocala has recently undergone. The travel store is now a Country Store, and the shopping area had a “floor to ceiling” makeover.

“We took down walls and moved display cases around, and also got a brand-new counter that’s twice the size of what we had before,” Metz says. “The décor is in line with the country-store name, and we also added in some displays for chocolates and baked goods. They worked on the lobby area, and soon they’ll be remodeling the TV room and showers. We’re getting a whole new everything.”

Iron Skillet adds bakery

Petro-Ocala-Florida-4The dining area went through major changes last spring, with a bakery being added, and an improved salad bar and buffet.

“We had a rustic look that had been up since the location was built in 1995, and now we have a horse theme out front and in the back dining room, and some more Florida-specific décor, with things like flamingos, in the central area,” says Scott Goldstein, restaurant manager.

The expanded buffet area allows the chefs to try out new items, but signature items like the country fried steak will always be ready at hand.

“If we got rid of the country fried steak we might as well shut the doors,” Goldstein says. “We’ve done some wonderful things, like having carved meats. We hand-cut our own top sirloin and cook them to order, and that’s the reason they are so popular.”

Busy shop prioritizes fast service

Petro-Ocala-Florida-1Up a hill from the travel center are the fuel islands and shop, always a hub of activity for drivers.

“We are pretty busy all the time, and so we’ve got a staff of 20 technicians, service advisors and other support staff,” says Chris Moeller, truck service general manager. “A lot of freight comes through this area, so we make sure that we’ve always got enough people here to get drivers back on the road quickly.”

That includes oil changes, which get two technicians’ attention when those trucks roll in.

Fuel for vehicle and driver

Because the fuel area and shop are set away from the rest of the travel center, they also have some food service and other amenities.

“Last year we added a whole deli up here, where we can offer hot food 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” says James Hawthorne, fuel desk manager. “We serve full meals with meat and vegetables, so if a driver is in a real hurry and can’t go down to the Iron Skillet, we can meet that need right up here.”

The fuel area has 12 islands, all with DEF at the pump, so drivers can make their way through quickly and easily.

Meet up with friends

Familiar faces and connections are key to the atmosphere. At the fuel desk, drivers enjoy catching up with friends like Wanda Johnson, who has been with Petro Ocala for 11 years.

“We’re a friendly bunch of people who really like to interact with the customers,” Hawthorne says. “We stay busy, so we have lots of regulars. We remember them and know what they like, and they really appreciate that service when they come in tired from being on the road a long time.”

Petro Ocala, Florida

Where: I-75, Exit 368 at Hwy 318
Phone: (352) 591-1881
Fax: (352) 591-8639
Truck Parking Spaces: 270
Truck Service Bays: 5
Private Showers: 18
Restaurants: Iron Skillet, Wendy’s
Other Amenities: Barber Shop, Laundry Room, StayFit Fitness Room, Pet Area, Reserve-It Parking, Game Room, Ministry Services


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