As a family-owned, second-generation company, Key Oil has expanded from a single-service gas station in Park City, Ky., to a multi-divisional company that services a dealer network of over 200 branded stores and a diverse network of unbranded stores.
“Key Oil started with Lester Key and his single-service station in 1962,” said Keelye Gaither, brand and marketing coordinator at Key Oil. “Three years later, he would go on to establish Keystops LLC and purchase the truck stop here in Franklin, Ky., now known as Keystop Travel Center.”
Today, Key Oil operates that Keystop Travel Center with Marathon-branded gas and a Keystop Express c-store with bp-branded gas — both located in Franklin, Ky. — as well as a Marathon-branded station in Corydon, Ky.
The company also owns and operates 16 bulk plant locations throughout Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana. These wholesale locations are open to the public with unattended card readers and serve the company’s dealer network.
Keystops LLC is a diverse company that services all facets of the industry. These services range from fuel hauling with Service Transport to the construction and installation of petroleum equipment at future fueling stations with Southern Kentucky Maintenance. Alongside its maintenance and construction division, Keystops LLC also owns Southern Environmental Services, which handles the company’s environmental work.
Key Oil is also one of the 53 Mobil One distributors in the U.S. for lubricants. This is where South Central Equipment, the company’s lubricant equipment distributor, comes into play.
What once started as a little fueling station has grown to be a provider of fuel services for clients in all facets of the industry that is now celebrating 61 years in business.
The fact that Key Oil has business on both the retailer and supplier side gives the company an interesting perspective.
“We’re all of these things wrapped up into one,” said Gaither. “And then we operate our own stores too. It’s really fun. We’re able to answer the questions that some of our dealers have because they’re the same questions that we’re having to answer and ask.”
Customers visiting Keystop locations can find everything they might need on the road from food to fuel, plus additional services that set Keystop apart from the competition, including specialty products like VP Racing Fuel.
In terms of service to the customer and the community, Key Oil makes an immense impact on its surrounding areas.
The chain participates in the Spirit Pump program, where a percentage of sales from a dispenser provides funding for organizations in the community, whether it be for a school, sports team or charity nearby.
“When customers come in, they’re able to take a (portion) of that purchase and give it back to the school,” said Gaither. “We do that at several of our locations. That’s something we really, really like to do.”
The chain not only fundraises to support the community, but also to provide hands-on support at the stores. Each store is staffed with attendants who are available to pump gas for customers and help with anything they may need.
“We’re never going to get rid of that. We’re always going to have that,” said Gaither. “Before I started with this company, that’s something that I had not seen since I was a really, really young kid, was someone who would come out and pump your gas for you. I think that’s a unique feature. … If someone needs help with something, they’ll be out there to help them.”
While still maintaining the old-school values and charm of a c-store of the past, the technology at each location is anything but antiquated.
At the Keystop Travel Center and Keystop Express location, technology is likely what many customers notice first. Each pump at these sites features Dover Fueling Solutions’ Anthem UX User Experience Platform, which displays commercials and interactive features on a 27-inch touchscreen.
“They’re very cool,” said Gaither. “They offer a lot of really cool things that we’re starting to get into.”
The chain is also currently updating its point-of-sale (POS) system to feature brand-new Verifone C18 touchscreens. These 18.5-inch screens will help drive sales in a more intuitive and efficient way, offering customers a self-checkout option in the stores.
Key Oil is also working on giving customers the option to check out at the pump and purchase in-store items without having to enter the store via the Anthem touchscreens.
While the forecourt is getting some major upgrades, the stores themselves are not being forgotten. Gaither noted that the travel center was just remodeled, with the bathrooms as the point of emphasis in the reconstruction.
“I don’t think a lot of people think about the bathrooms when they walk into a store, but that is one area you really want to spend some extra time in when you’re thinking of your customers,” said Gaither. “We did it for our truck drivers and of course our regular consumers who are coming in from the gas side as well.”
In addition to the restroom renovation at the travel center, small cosmetic changes to improve the stores’ appearance have been added at all locations.
“We’ve been focusing on some more modern finishes, including stainless steel and some metal finishes to keep things a little bit cleaner and nicer,” said Gaither.
Keystop customers can choose from a variety of foodservice options.
The company offers a proprietary quick-service restaurant (QSR) in the travel center site, which Gaither noted contributes heavily to the food sales in that location. The store also features a convenient drive-through.
The Keystop Express location offers a Hunt Brothers Pizza program, which now features a new online ordering and pickup service.
“It’s been really nice for our customers to be able to have that experience,” Gaither said, rather than having to wait in line for food.
The sites also offer some of the latest cold and frozen beverages, such as Fresh Blends dispensers, in addition to bean-to-cup coffee. The company purchased its own bean-to-cup coffee brand that is used throughout its travel center and c-store locations.
While the company excels in in-store products and features, the main focus is on the customer and how to best serve each individual that enters the store.
“We take a lot of pride in our spirit and our service to the customers,” said Gaither.
When customers were asked why they chose to visit Keystop over another store, Gaither pointed out that time and again shoppers responded, “They care about us.”
With customers as the focus of its business, Key Oil has grown and prospered for over 60 years.
“We want to make sure that every person who walks into one of our locations, whether it is our travel center, or a c-store or one of our bulk plants, that they’re welcomed and that they’re accommodated, whether that be through a service or a food item,” said Gaither.
Gaither also noted that this service to the customer would not be possible without the help from employees. Therefore, the company makes it a point to show its appreciation for everyone that works at any of its company-operated stores or dealer locations.
“A lot of times, we’ll go out to our locations even if they’re our branded dealer network; we’ll go out and have a customer appreciation day,” said Gaither.
From its humble beginnings as a single-service gas station, Key Oil has come to be a pivotal force in many communities throughout its operating states.