FENTON (KMOV) - More than a decade after the Chrysler plant was demolished along Interstate 44 in Fenton, new life is coming to the corridor.
On March 11, the city will welcome Wally’s, a 36,000 square foot gas station that spans nearly eight acres, features 72 gas pumps, five electric car charging stations and a variety of hot, freshly made food.
“It’s just been really exciting to be a part of the revitalization from where the Chrysler plant shut down to bringing new energy and activity into the park,” Michael Rubenstein, President of Wally’s, said.
Rubenstein is a Sullivan native and said bringing a Wally’s to St. Louis was a personal mission.
Previously, Rubenstein played a role in the opening of Wally’s in Pontiac, Illinois, the only location in the country, prior to construction on the Fenton location.
“It sits right along Interstate 55 and we get that traffic traveling between Chicago and St. Louis,” he said. “We really like the location here in Fenton, all of the work MoDOT has done fixing the exit ramps for accessibility, it’s great.”
The location will offer a large retail space, along with a BBQ sandwich station, bakery, pizza oven, popcorn counter, coffee bar, beef jerky counter and an assortment of traditional gas station snacks. Rubenstein said the total investment is more than $20 million and local officials are eager to see Wally’s succeed, as sales tax revenue will benefit the city.
“It’s just driving that whole area. I’m very excited about that opportunity for the city to have something there,” Bob Brasses, Mayor of Fenton, said. “We’re starting to see things happening.”
The corridor along I-44 has seen considerable development in the last several years, with Amazon, Grey Eagle and several other large companies investing in the Fenton Logistics Park.
According to St. Louis County, it awarded the 295-acre site a TIF in 2016. Brasses said that came after the city asked the county for help with the process, unable to handle the mere size of the job. The Chrysler plant’s troubles in 2008 shut the factory in 2009. A Fenton staple since 1959, the assembly plant was finally torn down in 2011.
“When we had Chrysler, that was it, that was everything with Chrysler and when it pulled up stakes and left, everything was gone,” Brasses said. “Now in that development over there, we have a lot diversified industries.”
Wally’s is currently hiring and plans to bring at least 100 jobs to town. Brasses is hopeful the traffic Wally’s will attract will bleed over into the local restaurants and businesses nearby. Adam Dontz, CEO of Greater Livingston County Economic Council, said that’s exactly what he’s seen following Wally’s opening in Pontiac in the fall of 2020.
“We’ve seen increased traffic coming through town and people shopping in our local stores, so it’s really been a great community effort with Wally’s,” he said. “It also serves as an anchor for national chains to come in and want to invest.”
Cars, RV’s, campers and buses are all welcome at Wally’s.