LaFayette Sun News

Well known Cusseta truck stop closed due to bankruptcy

By John Brice

Customers attempting to purchase gas this week at the Cusseta Travel Plaza off of exit 70 on Interstate 85 were met with an unwelcome sign taped to the door at the entrance of the popular truck stop which stated “We’re sorry, store is closed until further notice”. Drivers traveling between Valley and Opelika may be well advised to gas up before heading in either direction since the truck stop was one of the few if any gas station options located directly off the interstate in the sparsely populated Cusseta area spanning the boundary on both sides Lee and Chambers counties.
Truck drivers and motorists continued to be drawn in to the truck stop by its still operational electronic sign towering over the side of the interstate only to find the once bustling facility to have quickly descended into chaos, spurred on to drive off abruptly for other options to fill ‘er up. Trash cans lay on their side, overstuffed with garbage spilling forth and their lids strewn about the asphalt, juxtaposed next to gas pumps with plastic bags over the pump handles to discourage use as crime scene tape blocked the entrance doorways to the main building.
News spread quickly via social media thanks to a widely circulated photo of the hastily hung sign on the door announcing the closure. Shock and confusion in regards to the nature of the shuttering was expressed by many commenters on related facebook posts with clarification coming in the form of a leaked internal document from the company whose branding was featured at the facility, Pilot Travel Centers LLC. Doing business under the name “Pilot Flying J”, it is a company based in Knoxville, Tennessee which operates truck stops in the United States and Canada as minority owners with Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway holding company owning a majority 80% stake.
Senior Vice President of Sales David Hughes wrote in the leaked memo “One of our dealer providers, Mountain Express Oil Co. (MEX) and its affiliates are ceasing operations due to chapter 7 liquidating bankruptcy. Effective immediately, the below MEX locations are temporarily closed. Please refer to the alternative nearby locations in our network.” It goes on to continue “We appreciate your business and look forward to continuing to serve you at our more than 800 locations across North America. Please contact your sales representative if you have any questions regarding these changes.” At the top of the list of nineteen closed locations in that document is Dealer #1365 also known as Cusseta Travel Plaza.
According to a press release posted this past March to their official website, Mountain Express Oil Company is based in Alpharetta, Georgia and is“a recognized leader in the fuel distribution and retail convenience industry, announced today that the Company filed for voluntary protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code (“Chapter 11”) in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas (the “Bankruptcy Court”). The Company intends to use the Chapter 11 process to achieve a comprehensive restructuring that will strengthen the Company’s fuel distribution business, dealer network, and retail business, and is in advanced discussions with its secured lenders regarding a commitment of debtor-in-possession financing which will provide additional liquidity to the Company and assure its ability to meet its post-petition obligations in the ordinary course of business.”
Under the arrangement with Pilot Flying J, Mountain Express owned and operated the Cusseta Travel Plaza while the fuel and dispensing equipment was provided by Pilot Flying J. Out of the other eighteen locations being closed, one other Alabama facility is in Birmingham, with four more in Louisiana, three in Missouri, three in North Carolina, two in North Dakota, two in Pennsylvania and one each in Arkansas, South Carolina and Kansas.

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