A Short History of our flagship brand - Rhodes 101 Stops
Rhodes Oil Companies was founded in 1963 by F.E. "Gene" Rhodes as an oil jobbership with Gulf Oil Corporation. Mr. Rhodes’ affiliation with Gulf Oil Corporation began eight years earlier when he entered the industry as a commissioned delivery salesman. With the foresight of an emerging market in southeast Missouri and the stubborn ambition of a hardworking farm boy, Gene Rhodes embarked on his career as an oil jobber. As a Gulf jobber, Rhodes Oil Companies provided fuel to independent retail service stations and farmers throughout the area. The fledging company took a great stride forward by exclusively providing the fuel and motor oil for R.B. Potashnick Construction Company, the contractor responsible for building the vast majority of the new Interstate 55 highway in southeast Missouri in the late 1960’s. The performance on this job served as the foundation for the reputation of outstanding customer service that remains an integral part of RHODES 101 STOPS today.
In the early 1970’s, Gulf Oil Corporation pulled out of southeast Missouri, and Gene Rhodes saw an opportunity to expand his oil company into the gasoline retail market. He acquired several Gulf service station locations in the area, and immediately became a presence in the industry. The new chain of Rhodes Pump-Ur-Own self service gas stations proudly displayed its modified Gulf logo in appreciation of its humble beginnings as a distributor for Gulf Oil Corporation. With the rapid growth and development of his new chain of gas stations, Mr. Rhodes began laying the foundation for the continued growth in years to come. As the size of the business grew and became more complex, he delegated the daily responsibilities of running the business to two other individuals. Always an advocate of promoting from within his companies, Gene Rhodes rewarded those employees who seized the opportunities he provided for them.
In 1979, Jim Maurer moved into the position of office manager for the home office. Mr. Maurer originally came to Rhodes Oil Company as a service technician in the LP Gas division. As the division was being phased out, Mr. Maurer identified the need for increased management over finances and accounting within the company and positioned himself to fill this need. Under his guidance as General Manager, Rhodes Oil Companies began to develop the internal corporate structure that is the backbone of the RHODES 101 STOPS today. In addition to rearranging the debt structure and financing commitments, Mr. Maurer established and refined the companies’ accounting departments, and directed the implementation of the companies’ first computer in 1983 to improve handling of the general ledger and the payroll.
Jim Maurer’s efforts to structure the internal accounting methods of The Rhodes Companies were primarily driven through the early 1980’s by Paul Dirnberger’s bold and innovative marketing ideas in the small chain of gas stations and kiosks. Mr. Dirnberger came to work with Rhodes Oil Company in 1974 as a part-time cashier in one of the Pump-Ur-Own stations. In time, his initiative and creativity moved him into a supervisory position over the first four stations. From this position, Mr. Dirnberger tested his ideas and began developing the new retail concept he would unfold in the coming years.
The Rhodes Companies took over operation of their first inside store location in Cape Girardeau, Missouri in 1979. After watching the success of this first store, the expanding companies took over two additional bait and tackle stores associated with their existing Pump-Ur-Own stations. This growth continued very aggressively through the mid 1980’s, expanding to 11 Pump-Ur-Own locations providing primarily gasoline, oil, beer, cigarettes, bait, and tackle.
After this rapid growth process, The Rhodes Companies spent several years studying market opportunities and defining the corporate objectives. Then in 1989, the oil company acquired its first convenience store providing a full inventory of deli items, snack foods, and beverages in addition to the fuel and oil. Paul Dirnberger’s vision began to take shape as the Rhodes 101 Stop convenience store concept was born. The modified Gulf logo was upgraded to the new corporate logo to signify the change from a traditional service station to a convenience store "with one hundred and one reasons to stop." Five of the Pump-Ur-Own locations were completely rebuilt and two new locations were acquired to accommodate this RHODES 101 STOPS concept. The Rhodes Travel Center was completely rebuilt in 1990. All total, 14 convenience stores and the Travel Center express the Rhodes 101 Stops concept.
This resourceful corporate direction has led southeast Missouri in the convenience store industry throughout the 1990’s. RHODES 101 STOPS was the first convenience store chain in southeast Missouri to join with Orion Food Systems and Chester Fried to provide an attractive line of branded foodservices in many of their locations. Orion Food Systems consistently ranks Rhodes 101 Stops as their #1 chain in the five state mid western region for which they are affiliated. RHODES 101 STOPS were also one of the first chains in the area to pioneer drive-up windows at their locations. The drive-up window has since become an essential feature of all renovated locations as it is so successful in servicing customers more quickly and conveniently. RHODES 101 STOPS was also the first chain in the region to provide customers with a proprietary charge card for both personal and business accounts. RHODES 101 STOPS have moved beyond the boundaries of southeast Missouri in redefining the concept of fountain sodas. Coca Cola USA named Rhodes 101 Stops the #1 chain in the United States for volume soda sales on an incident rate.
This degree of success suggests a strong connection between innovative new ideas by RHODES 101 STOPS and overwhelming support from their customers. This customer patronage is due in part to quality merchandise and convenient locations. However, the real strength in the RHODES 101 STOPS concept is the fundamental emphasis on quality customer service. The people who run and manage the RHODES 101 STOPS convenience stores are a key part of this corporate puzzle of success.
RHODES 101 STOPS has grown a long way since 1956 when Gene Rhodes hired his first employee, Bob Amelunke, as a delivery man for his new Gulf Oil distributorship. However, through all the growth and change, Mr. Rhodes, Jim Maurer, Paul Dirnberger, and all the other Rhodes’ employees have maintained the focus to provide their customers with quality service, through quality products, in quality places, by quality people.