Convenience store chain, Star Express, to build the company’s first truck stop, complete with convenience store, shower facilities for truckers, dog park and Huddle House restaurant

PRINCE GEORGE — Earth-moving equipment was on the move last week off South Crater Road as site preparation got underway for the latest addition to the Exit 45 Gateway off Interstate 95.

A county-based convenience store chain, Star Express, plans to build a new location on a parcel in the 11800 block of South Crater Road, about a half-mile north of the I-95 interchange. The location will be the company’s first truck stop and will also feature a Huddle House restaurant, Star’s chief operating officer, Shiv Patel, told The Progress-Index last year.

Other amenities at the planned travel park will include a convenience store, shower facilities for truckers and a dog park for truckers and others who travel with their pets.

Patel said Star has inked a deal with the Atlanta-based Huddle House diner chain to operate a restaurant in the 9,000-square-foot location the company plans to build. A franchisee at one time operated Huddle House locations in Dinwiddie County and Hopewell, but they closed a few years ago. Currently, the nearest locations to the Tri-Cities are in Franklin and Emporia.

The restaurants typically are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and serve breakfast, lunch or dinner items all the time.

“Dev and I spent months researching franchises, and we agreed on Huddle House together,” Patel said. “We love everything about the franchise opportunity and the restaurant and we have the best team working with us to ensure our new Huddle House will be a success from the very start.”

Star Express was founded in 2006 by Danny Patel and today is run by his sons Shiv, 30, and Dev, 26. The chain currently operates four locations, including one next to the Courthouse Complex and another in Petersburg at the intersection of County Drive and Hickory Hill Road.

The new Star Express is the second major truck stop construction project to get going recently. On County Drive at Prince George Drive, Oklahoma City-based Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores is moving along with a planned travel center featuring 20 fuel pumps — eight for trucks and 12 for cars — along with a 6,400-square-foot convenience store, an Arby’s restaurant and a truck service center.

At Exit 45, the county, with financial help from Petersburg’s Cameron Foundation, has invested nearly $1 million in a project to improve the locale’s tourist appeal, including two 47-foot blue pylons, one on each side of South Crater Road at the north end of the interchange.

The project is part of Cameron’s Community Gateway Project, a larger initiative to foster economic development around the Tri-Cities. The nonprofit foundation is also working with officials in Petersburg, Hopewell and Dinwiddie County to launch public-private partnerships on gateway projects. Besides the two spires, the project includes new lighting, landscaping and other site improvements.

It’s hoped that the gateway project will entice more travelers to exit from I-95 and patronize the businesses that have continued to bet on the future of the area. According to Virginia Department of Transportation traffic counts, more than 40,000 vehicles pass through the adjoining stretch of I-95 on an average day, while around 12,000-16,000 travel on that stretch of Crater Road.

• Michael Buettner may be reached at or 722-5155.