Montgomery County

New travel center in Fonda could help fuel community

Bobby Naske of Johnstown, coffee host at the new Pilot truck stop in Fultonville, makes a fresh pot, Tuesday, March 1, 2022.
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Bobby Naske of Johnstown, coffee host at the new Pilot truck stop in Fultonville, makes a fresh pot, Tuesday, March 1, 2022.

FULTONVILLE — As Bobby Naske watched the new Pilot Travel Center being built in Fultonville, he knew he wanted to work there. Naske, a 70-year-old Johnstown resident, retired from three decades of commercial driving in December. On the road, Pilot was his favorite place to stop.

“This place was being built, and I said ‘I think I want to go to work there.’ I want to go from the outside looking in to the inside looking out,” Naske said after the formal ribbon cutting of the new 13,900-square-foot center at 164 Riverside Drive. “I retired from my regular job, and I just wanted to do this part time and stay busy.”

Naske is now working 20-28 hours a week as the Coffee Host at the new facility, which county leaders, as well as the Knoxville-based company that’s been operating in New York for 26 years, said is well-positioned to benefit the local community. For starters, Naske is one of more than 50 people who will be employed at the travel stop. In addition, the center is expected to bring in an estimated $2.18 million in state and local tax revenue, according to Pilot. Third, Pilot donated $10,000 to Fonda-Fultonville Central School District to support equal access to technology programs for students.
“It’s one more spot for people to be welcomed into Fulton and Montgomery counties,” said Mark Kilmer, President and CEO of the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce. “It’s going to be a benefit to the community.”

The travel center is Pilot’s eighth location in New York State, with a Liverpool location to the west and a Rotterdam location to the east.

But Robert Taylor, a Travel Center General Manager at Pilot, said the Fultonville location is poised to be a flagship location in the state.

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“If you fill up here, you can make it from this location to anywhere on the East Coast without having to stop,” Taylor said. “If you’re heading west, you’re into Ohio before you have to stop again. So I think this was a perfect location when it comes to the geography of the Thruway. My expectation is to be the No. 1 location in the state of New York.”

The travel center features 12 gasoline fueling positions and eight diesel lanes; fresh-made pizza, homestyle meals, and grab-and-go food offerings prepared onsite daily, including salads, sandwiches, burgers, fruit cups, and an array of hot and cold snacks; coffee; Taco Bell; brand name electronics, gifts and other products; 55 truck parking spots; seven showers; and laundry facilities among other amenities.

Pilot’s donation to the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District will have an immediate impact, said Superintendent Thomas Ciaccio. He said the district was planning to use the money for technologies like robotics and virtual reality to “bring curriculum to life.”

“You can’t afford those things usually, but when you get a piece of money like this, it makes it a lot easier for you to be able to afford those things for your students,” Ciaccio said. “When you get a business like this that wants to partner with the school, it’s just outstanding. It’s a win-win for everybody. Not just for the community but for the students.”

Naske said he is enjoying his new job and is looking forward to seeing some of the same faces come in as time goes on.
“I’ll get to chat with the kind of guys I used to work with out on the road. I know what their lifestyle is like. I can relate to the customers,” Naske said. “I think as time goes on we’ll have our regulars.”

Andrew Waite can be reached at [email protected] and at 518-417-9338. Follow him on Twitter @UpstateWaite.

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