Truck stop’s owner wins grant for face lift

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By Meghan Schiller

NILES, Mich. -- J.D.'s Truck Stop has provided rest for weary travelers along US31 and I-80/90 East, since the 1970's. The owner of the popular spot was surprised to learn she won a grant to help give the place a much needed facelift.

The life of a trucker can be dull.

"You just want to get outside your two doors and be able to sit down and watch TV rather than crawl in the back would be a blessing,” said truck driver Lenard Robinson.

Thanks to a grant, his wish may come true.

J.D.'s Truck Stop in Niles, Michigan is one of two small businesses in the state to receive a $1,000 Sam's Club gift card.

"Bob called me one day and asked me if I minded if he entered me for this contest,” said Gina Masten, owner of J.D.’s truck stop.

Masten has been working with a local non-profit called "Michiana Score" for the past year.

The non-profit assigned Masten a mentor to help her bring the struggling truck stop back to life.

"I of course had no idea that I was going to win and I got an email one day, wasn't sure it was real and called him and he was ecstatic,” said Masten.

The money will give the outdated lounge a facelift. It's one of the only truck stops servicing South Bend and lower Michigan.

"A lot of us depend on this place, so the more amenities is always nicer, especially for us on the road,” said truck driver John Henry Heierman.

Sprucing up the lounge will add to the overall appeal of this bustling stop and hopefully draw in more truckers.

"No matter what it's going to enhance what we already have. Give them a little bit more to just sit back, enjoy and relax with and that's how you get them to come in. That's how you do business and I think that's a good idea,” said David Harrington, Office Manager of J.D.’s Truck Stop.

In addition to the money, Masten also won an all-expense paid trip to Dallas, Texas, for a two day business seminar that teaches the winners ways to grow. .

She's looking forward to meeting the other 101 winners at the conference the end of this month.

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