Wally’s Is a Road Trip Rest, Refuel and Recharge Destination

Wally’s locations are 10 times the size of traditional c-stores offering a variety of foodservice and merchandise options.

January 03, 2024

With an average guest visit of 27 minutes, it’s easy to see why Wally’s dubs itself “Home of the Great American Road Trip.”

Growing up on Route 66 in rural Missouri, Chad Wallis and his cousin, Michael Rubenstein, knew there was a need for a concept like Wally’s. “We wanted to build something that was going to be an experience for the guest, … and make it comfortable for those guests to come and explore the store,” said Wallis, who is chairman of the board.

“We focused on having a traditional c-store, a fresh food area, and then a retail area that has a really unique experience,” said Rubenstein, president and CEO of Wally’s.

With two locations in Pontiac, Illinois, and Fenton, Missouri, both stores are destinations for travelers along busy interstates. One foot inside the door and 27 minutes doesn’t seem long enough to take in all that Wally’s has to offer, beginning with clean restrooms.

The condition of the restroom can either make or take a store’s food, merch and beverage sales. “Normally a guest will walk in, beeline straight there, hopefully that's their first experience in Wally’s, said Andy Strom, chief experience officer at Wally’s, noting that a fulltime attendant cleans and sanitizes the restroom every hour.

Wally’s has a distinct 1980s nostalgia and nod to an iconic road trip movie from that time, which is felt and seen throughout the 30,000 square foot Fenton location. Let’s face it: The ‘80s was the best decade ever—so why not capture it? Wally’s does that, and then some.

Head to the “Sloosh” beverage area customers will find an impressive array of frozen and cold dispensed drinks, including 70-plus fountain heads that feature old-school Mountain Dew, Mellow Yellow, Dr Pepper, Pepsi, 7-Up, Sprite, Squirt and Coca-Cola labels. “Everybody loves the Sloosh,” said Lute Cain, director of food service for Wally's.

Now for the food. “When everything is live, action stations, it's almost like a food court 2.0,” explained Cain. Everything is made in-house, from the sliced or chopped brisket, to the fresh popcorn, bakery and hand tossed pizza, to the fresh-prepared and packaged cold case items—charcuterie boards, smoked salmon platter, seasonal salads, fruit cups and meals to go—it’s hard to find something you don’t want to devour before walking out the door.

And don’t forget the jerky station, where customers can buy an array of flavors by the pound, or grab pre-packed a bag to go.

While the ’80s were some 40 years ago, nothing about Wally’s feels “old.” There are ample modern and clean touches, from self-checkout to electric vehicle charging, to a sleek retro design with bold colors and an open and spacious store layout with high ceilings and natural light.

“One of my favorite things is watching somebody who’s been to Wally’s bring somebody who’s never been … and to see that smile on their face and the pride as a guest takes around a friend and shows them the store and tells them what it's all about,” said Wallis.

See Wally’s in action in this Ideas 2 Go video: convenience.org/Wally’s.

Wally’s quick hits:

  • Mascot: Wallybear
  • Fountain: 70+ soda flavors
  • Forecourt: 72+ fueling positions, 5+ EV charging stations
  • Sub brand: Camp Wallyhaha
  • Is that…? Yes, there is a Winnebago inside the store
  • Popcorn: You will always find cheddar
  • Pizza: Roughly 160 pepperonis on a large pepperoni pizza
  • Jerky: Some customers buy 10-20 pounds of jerky per visit