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Flocking to the Flying J



Published: Fri, February 28, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



With four eateries and a convenience store, the plaza, open 24/7, is an oasis on the interstate.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

HUBBARD -- Shelly Oparka, Vicki Adams and Jose Hernandez have found long-term employment at the Flying J Travel Plaza.

The long-awaited $8 million facility officially opened today just north of Interstate 80 along state Routes 7/62.

"My pastor, who is also a truck driver, said there would be more security," Hernandez of Hermitage, Pa., said of the Hubbard Township facility.

Hernandez is among 125 workers hired at the plaza that has taken three years from concept to grand opening.

The plaza will be open all the time.

Hernandez decided to make the move to Flying J as a line cook after paychecks for his previous cooking job became unsteady.

Oparka of Liberty and Adams of Boardman say they, too, are looking forward to a career with Flying J.

Oparka was a "glorified secretary" for her husband's Oparka Trucking Co. and is now a cashier.

Adams jumped to Flying J as a cashier from Pilot Travel Center in Girard. She is already training to become an accounting manager.

Lots of competition

"We were very picky," said James Brunheim, general manager of Flying J's restaurant group, who has moved here from Cincinnati.

Brunheim and Brian Christina, general manager of the plaza's fuel and merchandise operations and a Nebraska native, pointed out that there were some 500 job applicants.

Those who were hired went through a nearly two-week training program.

The Hubbard facility is Flying J's 162nd plaza. The company has the lowest-priced diesel fuel because it's the No. 1 seller of the product in the United States, it says.

Facilities

Plaza facilities include Country Market, a 210-seat restaurant and buffet; Pepperoni's, a pizza shop; Magic Dragon, a Chinese eatery; and Crossroads Deli.

A full convenience store offers clothing, music, collectibles, novelties and gourmet foods for sale.

In addition to the 30 fuel pumps, including an area especially designed for recreational vehicles, the plaza has a driver's lounge, game room, 15 showers and a laundry.

"It's a market that has room for people who are doing it right," said Christina.

"It sets the bar" as far as similar facilities are concerned, Brunheim asserted.

Flying J, the general managers explained, offers programs for food and fuel discounts.

They include the Flying J Reward Club and R.V. Real Value Club, which offer automatic discounts on gasoline and diesel fuel and calling card service discounts.

yovich@vindy.com




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