After being closed for six or seven months, the former Key Convenience store on US-56/77 in Lincolnville has new owners. Heath Shields and Sabrina Bledsoe of Lincolnville opened Route 77 Pit Stop on June 12.
Shields is a partner in Shields Farms and also operates a forage-harvesting business.
“Our crew missed coming here for our food and drinks,” he said of his latest venture, “and my fiancé, who was working at Spirit Aero Systems in Wichita, wanted to be closer to home.”
The couple owns the business together.
Bledsoe manages the store, which is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week and from noon to 10 p.m. Sundays.
She spent time in a mechanics shop growing up, where she learned about stocking inventory. She also has worked in a fast food business.
Bledsoe said she likes her job because her two children — Leah, 8, and Rilynn, 2 — can be with her in the store while she works. Her biggest challenge is managing employees, of which there are three. She also deals with six vendors.
The couple’s biggest investment was in equipment needed to produce and sell Hunt Brothers Pizza.
“We took a hit there,” Shields said.
Improvements include renovated bathrooms, a new air-conditioning system, new lighting, and fresh paint on the walls. The couple also plans to redo the outside of the building.
In addition to grocery items, the store has limited breakfast and lunch menus and provides booths for dining in.
“We’re open to suggestions,” Shields said.
Most of their customers are local farmers.
“It’s great to have this store,” Leonard Bina said. “It brings life to this town.”
John Chizek, a Lincolnville resident, likes the beer.
Bledsoe said it’s interesting to hear farmers’ conversations and meet new people. Among highway travelers who have stopped were a couple of actors from the TV show, “Street Outlaws.”
The couple expects business to increase when the Kansas State University sports seasons begin and fans travel to games at Manhattan.
“We’ve been putting in more than we are getting back,” Bledsoe said, “but it’s starting to level out.”