A New Era in Highway Accommodations:
The Birth of the Travel Plaza
Where It All Started: Main St. U.S.A.
When the new Stan’s location opened, there were 700 truck stops across the nation adjusting to the changing times. Stan had a vision for his new restaurant that would prove to be innovative and offered a unique experience for the growing number of travelers and truckers on the road. His new concept offered not only the delicious country cooking and hometown friendly service Stan’s had become well known for over the past 24 years, but also a country store, gift shop, and antique museum to entertain motorists.
The new restaurant featured a stunning antique solid oak and stained glass back bar originally from an old saloon in Nashville, a unique Siamese tree arch entrance, and a ham that had hung on the wall since day 1 (it’s still hanging there by the way and has been for more than 60 years). The walls and ceilings were covered in antiques and the front drive featured covered wagons and farming implements for tourists to pose in front of and snap photos with.
Although the bunks and showers had gone away, truckers were well taken care of at the new Stan’s and the business soared. Travelers and truckers alike continued their ritual of stopping at Stan’s, as they had gotten accustomed to in the old days of passing through Spring Hill on Highway 31. Stan pioneered what was the beginning of the new era of travel plazas built for motorists. It was more than a quick meal and a fill-up, it was part of the journey and the experience of traveling.
Stan’s has served generations of families in Maury County, an untold number of truckers, scores of families hitting the open road, and its fair share of famous and not-so-famous aspiring musicians headed to Nashville to make it on the big stage. Stan’s Country Hams, bacon, and sausage have been shipped to every corner of the country. Stan’s tells the story of southern cooking, emphasizing its authenticity with hillbilly speak on it’s menu offering up Po’ke Chops and Aigs and melt in your mouth pit BBQ over Kracklin’ Cornbread. The staff is small town friendly, some of them have been with Stan’s for decades, and they’ll make you feel right home.
Stan’s Café and Service Station was founded by W.O. “Stan” Stanfill and his wife Myrtle “Mrs. Stan” on Main St. in Spring Hill, TN and began operation on August 8th, 1947. They offered country cooking, a complete soda fountain, curb service and were open 24 hours a day. The business served as the hub of the small community, 540 residents at the time, for decades.
The restaurant and service station served all aspects of the community of Spring Hill and the surrounding area. From the young children hoping to get a pull of soda from the fountain after church on Sunday, to the teenagers looking to socialize after a ball game or especially to prolong a date night with a sweetie on the weekend. The older folks would gather for breakfast and coffee in the mornings and discuss current events and visit with friends and neighbors.
The delicious home-style food and friendly small town service earned it quite the reputation with the travelers of the time, especially truckers who were catered to with hot showers, bunks to sleep in, a pay phone, and even a barbershop all in one location and 24 hours a day. Stan went a step further and converted an old blacksmith shop next door that had shoed mules for decades into a repair garage for the big rigs. The location of the restaurant was truly ideal, and Stan certainly knew this. Formerly the old Campbell Mill, the property was located in the center of town on what is Highway 31, the main North-South highway connecting the ports of the Gulf Coast with the ports of the Great Lakes prior to the construction of the Interstate Highway System.
In the decade after WWII, the nation experienced an unexpected economic boom that made the Great Depression begin to fade into distant history. Military-trained truck drivers returned from the war and were quickly put to work in the rapidly growing long-haul trucking business that was fueled by the budding wealth and growing consumerism sweeping America.
At the same time, middle class American workers were enjoying the benefits of paid vacations and increased car ownership. The pent up demand for leisure travel created the American ritual of families loading up in the car and hitting the highways. The family road trip, for many, was a magical time of discovering the country, strengthening family bonds, and enjoying the freedom of the open road.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the completion of the Interstate Highway System slowed the pulse of main street businesses as traffic was diverted from old familiar routes and onto new modern highways. Stan moved quickly and purchased a piece of property near the newly completed interchange of I-65 and Hwy 99 just south of Spring Hill in Columbia and in 1971 opened Stan’s Restaurant and Country Store.