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Smiling Faces

By on September 8, 2011
RoadKing Mag

Some people may think that the happiest place on earth is Disney World, but the Ocala Petro, just an hour north of the famous resort, could easily compete for that title.

“A driver told me that he can come here in the worst mood and be smiling by the time he leaves,” says Betty Honigfort, fuel manager. “The people who work here are country people — the salt of the earth. We really care about others, and our customers know they will always feel welcome.”

Drivers also know that they can count on every inch of the 25-acre travel center’s site to be clean and organized. Throughout the day, employees walk around the lots and pick up all the stray cigarette butts and trash they see. Porters keep a close eye on the 18 showers, quickly giving them a thorough cleaning after each use.

“We just resurfaced the inside of all of our showers, and upgraded them with fans and hair dryers, big towels, cups, mints and cards with the name of the porter on duty, in case the driver needs anything,” says Michael Metz, store manager. “The porters are staying out in the halls more often, so when they see a driver they will say ‘Hello, how are you?’ and the driver knows where to find them if they have a request.”

The cheerful atmosphere and long list of amenities all come in a very pretty package. With Florida’s trademark palm trees and plenty of grass all around, the Ocala Petro is a sweet oasis for drivers taking a break from the road.

“We’re not at a major intersection, so people come here because they like us and know we’ll treat them well,” says Metz. “We are responsive to our customers.”

Get spiffy
When you’re in such sparkling surroundings, you might as well go in for a personal cleanup too. In addition to the great showers, there’s a laundry room and a barbershop on the premises.

Good eats, fast
The fuel desk has its own kitchen, where drivers can pick up a hot deli sandwich, hamburger, chicken sandwich and more. If it’s not on the menu, ask. Honigfort and her staff are happy to fix sandwiches to order when they can.

“We also have fresh fruit and salad,” she says. “One driver always calls ahead and asks us to make four salads to go. Then he has them for later too.”

Meet Chester
Chester Mitchell, the night porter, never fails to make a good impression. Drivers regularly make a point of complimenting him and his work.

“He can clean a shower like nobody’s business,” says Metz. “Everyone calls him ‘Grandad,’ and his wife gets him a very nice cologne. He always smells better than anyone else.”

Bird show
Drivers and employees were delighted to discover that a family of American bald eagles built their nest on the site. With a good pair of binoculars and a bit of patience, you might even have the opportunity to see these magnificent birds in flight.

Did you know?
Ocala is horse country, and rivals Kentucky for producing champions. In fact, this year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, is from the area.

What You’ll Find
Ocala Petro

Where: I-75, Exit 368 at Hwy 318
Phone: (352) 591-1881
Fax: (352) 591-8639
Truck parking spaces: 270
Truck Service Bays: 5
Restaurant: Iron Skillet, Wendy’s

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