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Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Motor Inn Keeps on truckin'

Truck stop continues full service

By Margie Wuebker

The front facade of the Motor Inn truck stop in Mercer.. . .

MERCER - The Motor Inn Auto- Truck Stop offers the conveniences of home for those on the road.
The privately-owned business, which includes fuel pumps, a convenience store and an 85-seat restaurant, is the only location in Ohio belonging to Roady's Truck Stops, a national association of nearly 300 independent truck stops in 43 states.
Current owner Rex Bragg and his wife, Debbie, recently remodeled the stop at the busy intersection of U.S. 127 and U.S. 33. Judging from old photographs, he believes the Motor Inn existed in some form in the early 1900s.
"The old pumps in this picture are gravity fed," he said. "They date back to around 1904 or 1905."
The business was destroyed by fire in 1939 as a result of a Labor Day weekend traffic accident. A West Virginia dentist, en route to a medical meeting in Chicago, Ill., failed to stop at the U.S. 33 stop sign and was struck by a semitrailer loaded with dehydrated eggs. The new 1939 Ford Deluxe burst into flames killing the driver and his wife. The blaze also engulfed the truck and the business.
A Texaco sign, a chimney and a small section of roof emblazoned "Rest Rooms Modern" stood amid the rubble after flames were extinguished. Construction began several days later on a new, larger facility.
"There used to be two stations at this busy corner," Bragg said. "The Motor Inn here and The Midway across the road. Now it's just us."
  Stanley and Thelma McNutt - the fourth owners - purchased the Motor Inn in April 1947 and sold it in June 1972. The Braggs purchased the place from her mother and stepdad (Shirley and Dick Bolton) in 2001. It had been in the Bolton family prior to that time but little is known about owners who preceded the McNutts.
While the Braggs operate the gas pumps and convenience store around-the-clock 365 days a year, they lease the adjacent restaurant to Jack Davis of Huber Heights. He works at the restaurant three days a week.
Menus in the Motor Inn Restaurant proclaim "Decades of home cooking in your neighborhood." Even the galvanized sign atop the roof promotes home cooking.
Regulars know the specials by heart: Monday, meatloaf; Tuesday, beef and noodles; Wednesday, ham and beans; Thursday, chicken stir fry; Friday, all-you-can-eat fish; and Sunday, baked Swiss steak and dressing.
"I've leased the restaurant for 14 years," Davis said reaching for a coffee pot and filling a customer's cup. "Many of my employees have been here a lot longer."
Waitresses Debbie Barrett and Hilda Vogan have 33 years of service while Darla Seibert and Diane Staley are closing in on 20 years. Kate Smith, at 75 years old, still bakes pies and cakes five days a week.
The restaurant is open 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; breakfast is available any hour.
Bragg said the Motor Inn is known far and wide. A local trucker was delivering a load in Texas not long ago when he heard chatter on the CB radio about a place that served the best quarter-pound hot dog for 99 cents. After hearing reference to The Motor Inn, he joined the conversation and learned his cohorts were indeed talking about the place at the intersection of U.S. 33 and U.S. 127.
Clientele come in big rigs, pickup trucks, family cars and motorcycles, Bragg said.
"You would be amazed how many people come up to the counter and ask where the restrooms are," Rex said with a laugh. "We know they're first-timers; regulars don't have to ask."
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