By Angela Jones
The Pilot Flying J corporation, headquartered in Knoxville, officially has bought the property where the North 40 Truck Stop has ruled for the past 40 years. North 40 first opened its doors in 1982. Those doors closed on Jan. 9 for the last time.
“I am not sure if it will be named Pilot or not. I just don’t know any of their plans,” said Doug Whitfield, co-owner of North 40. “The last day North 40 was open was last Monday. The next morning, the new owners had people there changing out locks, removing gas pumps, and digging up the old tanks.”
Doug retired several years ago, leaving the management of North 40 to his brothers Mark and Lew. Smith and Whitfield Inc. sold their shares a few years ago, making the Whitfield brothers sole owners. Originally, when the business opened, there were several different shareholders. Doug held controlling shares, and later Lew and Mark bought the shares of J.C. Hedge.
“It has been a successful business for 40 years and we have all made a good living from it,” Doug said. “The fact that we are a 40-year-old business and have remained profitable through the years makes us all proud.”
When the truck stop burned in the late 1990’s, they rebuilt, enlarged, and improved the facility to a state-of-the-art operation. The renovated truck stop featured a “home cooking” style restaurant capitalizing on from-scratch recipes, which became very popular with Benton County residents and travelers alike. The buffet was a particular favorite.
“We served homemade banana pudding every Sunday, and hosted record crowds on Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Those were the best days of the year for us,” Doug said. “After the restaurant closed last year, we had customers calling and begging us to re-open the restaurant just for those holidays.”
The North 40 Restaurant closed in May of 2022. According to Lew, this was due to a combination of the economy after the COVID shut-down, supply chain problems with food and supplies, and difficulty keeping enough employees. Eight months later, the whole operation has closed.
“We did have a non-disclosure with Pilot about the sale, but I believe that everyone knows by now,” Doug related. “Buc-ee’s approached us several years ago wanting to put a super-truck stop in, but it just didn’t work out.”
According to Doug, Pilot Flying J has a 10-year lease-finance arrangement to complete the purchase of the property. As he said, the new owners quickly went to work on their plans for renovating the property.
“Pilot is looking forward to joining the community in Holladay with the recent purchase of the North 40 Truck Stop property,” said Shannon Stone, senior manager of store modernization for Pilot Flying J. “Our team is working hard to remodel this location quickly as it joins our family of brands as a One9 store.”
In the fall of 2019, Pilot Flying J launched the One9 brand, a nationwide fueling network focused on catering to smaller fleets. One9 is named after Channel 19, the primary CB radio channel used by professional drivers across North America. Inspired by the connection that this channel offers to drivers across the nation, One9 is committed to connecting all drivers to the resources they need.
“One9 offers outstanding benefits to the industry and gives us a way to help smaller fleets and owner-operators receive the services they need to successfully run their businesses,” said Jimmy Haslam, CEO of Pilot Flying J. “We are committed to providing fleets and drivers with convenient access to our exceptional credit and rewards programs to make life on the road easier.”
“All major amenities at this location will experience a complete makeover, including refreshed restrooms, expanded food and beverage offerings, and self-checkouts for a quicker shopping experience,” Stone added. “We look forward to offering job opportunities at our newly remodeled facility to existing and new team members.”
While Benton County and the trucking community surely will give the new One9 establishment a fair chance, it is always hard to say goodbye. A Jan. 7 social media post by a long-term patron perhaps says it best:
“So sorry to see North 40 close. It was always an awesome place. The food in the restaurant was incredible, the whole staff was very professional, courteous, caring, and helpful – from the cooks, to the checkout clerks, to everyone there! Y’all will be missed by many truck drivers like me,” wrote Brian Brewer, of Greer’s Ferry, Ark. “Thank you North 40 for it all, and God bless you. You were what the American dream is all about.”