Rows and rows of many different food items, any kind of beverage one could think of, meat, cheese, hot food of all kinds, sounds like a big grocery store, but lucky for our area, it’s a 1st Stop Market and Gas station. The best part is, there are no carts and big lines, just everything, one might need to pick up on their way to or from work and do it quick to get on their way. What more could one want?
On Friday, January 26, 2018, the First Stop Market and Gas Station in Clay Township on State Route 23, just outside of Portsmouth, opened its doors. Attending the opening were three of the Clay Township Trustees, Tim Hines, Bill Runyon, and Tony Whitt, the owner of the First Stop, Robert Cantrell, and his attorney and friend, Marilee Stephenson, who practices law here in Portsmouth.
Mr. Cantrell greeted the group with a smile and thank you for coming. He then proceeded to show people around the store, while he entertained the group, with stories of how he started out in business and why he chose this area.
Cantrell began by saying he has a book coming out in the Fall called, “The Ten Principals of Business.” He said he believes in these ten principals and how they have worked for him as he grew in the business world.
He spoke of how his mother raised a total of 13 children, with a fifth grade education and no driver’s license. He said he was the seventh child, born on the seventh of April, which he said made him lucky. He quit school the second week of the tenth grade. He went to work at Wright Patterson Air Force base, washing dishes, at the age of 15 and 1/2. When he was 16, he hitchhiked to Michigan and worked at a shoe factory with his friend. When he turned 18, the Army drafted him and he went in the service.
When he came home from the service, he hitchhiked from Louisville to Adams County. Then, he worked at a factory, same as his mother. And then in 1979, he went to building houses. Then, in the 80s, he built his first store.
Cantrell and his wife, have two children, two granddaughters, and a great-granddaughter. Both his children work in the business. His son, who has muscular distrophy, he says, works everyday. His son started with a pick-up truck he had bought at Oberling Ford, here in Portsmouth, by delivering motor oil to stores. Today, his dad says, that they now have 100,000 distribution centers and in one area, they are the largest single owned one, within three counties.
He said he couldn’t do anything he has done, without the help of other people who have been around him. Women, starting with his mother, he said have been most of the biggest influences to help him. People helped educate him and especially his Heavenly Father. “I’m not a selfish person and I’m not a prideful person, my mother wanted me to be down to earth, she was an intelligent person.” He then added about this store, “We cannot be here, if not for the town.”
He said that he and Stephenson had been working for years to get this store in this township. Clay Township trustee Bill Runyon said, “We were so ready, people kept asking me all the time, when is it going to open?”
He said, I’ve been very lucky … and you never know what I’m going to do next.” The southeastern Ohio, northeastern Kentucky and western West Virginia areas are the places that he has chosen to put his businesses.
Cantrell is an interesting man and he is so welcoming to anyone who comes into his business. Successful, he might be, but one thing about him, is he is just like any guy next door, and he is looking forward to meeting and greeting people in his new First Stop.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins 740-353-3101 ext.1928
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