Shepherd's on Main Street reopens; town rejoices

by Charles Gerian

Shepherd’s location on south Main Street has reopened just in time for Homecoming this Friday, and the renovated store stands as not only a shimmering new gem in the crown of Shepherd Oil, but a testament to the company’s greatest asset of all.

In May of 2023 the south Main location closed for renovation in order to incorporate, among other things, the Shep’s Diner concept that transformed Doolin’s location from a stop-and-go convenience store into a bonafide restaurant.

Over the summer, the north Shepherd’s location saw a dramatic surge in traffic and, along with it, the introduction of the Shepherd Rewards app, complete with clubs and a point-based system to benefit customers who- like most of Blackwell- make multiple stops at the gas stations a day.

Now, as customers get back into the groove of visiting their south Main location, Shepherd Oil Director of Human Resources Stan Bowman breaks down what’s new and, perhaps more importantly, what hasn’t- and will never- change.

“We added 30 different craft beer selections,” Bowman explained over the phone Friday morning, “4 new flavors of tea, a beans-to-cup coffee grinder for that fresh brew experience, and of course the biggest change was to the food.”

Anyone who enters the south Main location will know exactly what Bowman is referring to.

Entering the newly renovated store, customers will find several new display shelves and stands for cold foods, chips, grocery, drink stations, an expanded beer cooler, sodas, energy drinks, juice, water, and more all wrapped in the shiny new veneer of the fresh-faced location.

To the right, past the iconic central hub of cash registers, is the new Shep’s Diner open-concept kitchen.

“It’s wide open,” Bowman said, “you can see what’s being served to you. We have chicken, fish, shrimp, sides, pizza by the slice, calzones, pan pizzas, combo meals, dipper bowls, dessert...there are tons more options now for our customers.”

The Shep’s Diner concept, first introduced at the franchise’s Alva location in 2017, soon found its way to Blackwell’s Doolin store in 2019 and brought with it more than just standard gas station fare like breakfast biscuits, chicken strips, and crispitos. The convenience store was soon serving gourmet hamburgers, country-style dinners, tacos, and more.

Now, customers on the south side of town have that for themselves.

“It’s been the result of an industry shift,” said Bowman on Shep’s Diner, “the Alva location was successful and we introduced that to Blackwell with a very positive response. The market has changed completely for gas stations. It’s no longer heat-em-up sandwiches you pop in the microwave, it’s now cafe-style meals, and the quality has obviously improved tremendously because of that.”

“This summer we also launched or app and rewards system,” Bowman explained excitedly, “it’s something we had discussed in the past and everything fell into place for it. It’s a digital age, everyone has an app, and it took us some time to figure out something that was the right fit for us that would allow us to really benefit our customers.”

The app and rewards card are based on points- 1 point per dollar or 2 points per gallon of fuel- and combine the Shepherd’s staples such as the fountain drink, coffee, and birthday clubs which have gone from stamped card stock to an easy-to-track app.

The Shepherd Rewards app offers special incentives as well such as bonus points when purchasing products like 3 12 oz Red Bull energy drinks, 2 breakfast sandwiches, specific chip or jerky brands, and pre-packaged sweets.

The app also provides such incentives for alcohol and tobacco products for members that are over the age of 21.

The Main Street location reopened just last week, and Bowman said the Doolin location was still feeling the impact of the summer days later.

“I talked to our employees at the Doolin location just after the Main Street one reopened, and they said it still hasn’t slowed down. People have to get back into the routine of visiting our south Main store. But a major demographic for our Main Street store is, of course, the high school students. It was important for us to get the work done on that location to line-up with the new school year,” Bowman explained.

It was, coincidentally, a happy coincidence that the location would reopen just before Homecoming.

But, all the glitz and glamour of the alluring new look and expanded offerings aside, Bowman said certain things hadn’t changed at the Main Street location or anywhere else.

“Two things haven’t changed. They never will. Our people, and our commitment to customer service. We have fantastic people that have worked for us for years and they are exceptional at what they do. The new diner is nice, the app is wonderful, it’s great to have these programs, but that wouldn’t mean much if we didn’t have our employees. Great customer service is lacking these days, but not here, not for Shepherd’s.”

“Through the renovation of our Main Street store we took those employees and integrated them into our Doolin location. There were no hours lost, no lay-offs. It was seamless,” Bowman explained.

Of course, anyone who has ever been to these locations would know that. Walking into Shepherd’s is never just grabbing your food or drink, paying, and being out the door. The men and women behind the counter always greet you by name, a smile on their face, and ask about your day.

For many, the reopening of the south Main location might be just the convenience of a closer stop on their way out of town, but for many more, it will be more like coming back home.