Following months of construction, Casey's General Store in Utica opened its doors early Thursday morning at the intersection of U.S. 6 and Route 178, north of the village.
"We're thrilled to have this Casey's open," said John Kulaga, Casey's district manager. "We expect this new store to be a busy place once the Starved Rock summer season starts up. We are welcoming all to come by and check us out. It's a good looking store."
Kulaga explained Utica's new Casey's joins more than 2,000 other stores now located in 16 states.
The gas/convenience station will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"We have had many customers come in since we opened at 6 a.m. this morning and the reviews have been great so far," said Store Manager Lynn Meaney. "People have been so nice to the staff here as many are coming in just to check us out and welcome us to town."
One of those first customers was Alex Reynolds, of Ottawa, who did not realize it was the store's opening day.
"I was coming back from a Peru store when I thought I would stop for a slice of breakfast pizza and a drink," said Reynolds. "I will be stopping by this place anytime I'm back in this neighborhood. I like Casey's. It is always good stuff."
Pastor Lloyd Johnson, of Utica, came to Casey's Thursday for hot coffee and to just "look around." He said he usually buys doughnuts from the Casey's store in La Salle for his adult Sunday School class on most weekends, but said he would try the Utica store in the very near future.
"I am impressed with this place," Johnson said. "It is very large, very clean, the staff is very nice and friendly. I will also say I think Casey's has the best pizza around so it will be nice to have one close by."
At the pumps, Frank Lew, of Portage, N.Y. who is on a trip cross-country, also had no idea it was day one for the store.
The Utica store is of the brand new designed larger stores with entrances on both the north and south sides. It has 12 fuel pumps and has several diesel pumps available for vehicles and semis in the back.
The store features food offerings include made-from scratch-pizza, prepared-to-order sub sandwiches, fresh doughnuts, an assortment of salads and many varieties of hot and cold coffee along with other fountain or bottled drinks.
In addition, the grocery section includes all standard grocery items and aisles of candy and soda. It also features several tables and chairs up front for customers not wanting to eat or drink in their vehicles.
Meany said, like the pizzas, all doughnuts are homemade from scratch, prepared fresh every day, every hour. Online ordering is also available.
There will be an official grand opening and ribbon cutting Saturday, May 12, according to Utica Mayor David Stewart.
According to its website, Casey's is currently the fourth largest convenience store chain and the fifth largest pizza chain in the United States.
It was founded in 1959 in Des Moines, Iowa, and is now headquartered in Ankeny, Iowa.
According to Meany, Utica Casey's now has 21 employees working three shifts. The manager said anyone looking for employment at her or any Casey's may apply online on the company's business site.