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CSN EXCLUSIVE: Hot Spot Celebrates 75 Years in Business

The family-run company has seen numerous changes in the industry, even as the fundamentals remain the same.
Exterior of Hot Spot convenience store with gas pump in foreground

SPARTANBURG, S.C. — In an era of substantial consolidation, Hot Spot — the convenience store banner of R.L. Jordan Oil Co. of North Carolina — has worked to maintain its ever-growing family roots.

Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, the company now employs three generations of Jordans, with the children of founder Robert L. Jordan all co-owning the business. 

Current CEO Wilton L. Jordan talked with Convenience Store News about the family's history and the way it's intertwined with the company itself.

[Read more: CSN EXCLUSIVE: Embracing a Changing Convenience & Fuel Landscape]

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"Our first location opened in rural Franklin, N.C., in 1949. My grandfather … was there in overalls, along with my grandmother and numerous relatives," Jordan said. "A second location opened on Town Hill in Franklin and a third in Tryon, N.C., where dad met our mother, Jean Capps."

R.L. Jordan Oil started out like many modern convenience retailers, primarily operating as a gas station operator and a wholesale distributor of gasoline. However, the 1970s energy crisis led the organization to rethink its primary operations, with fuel distribution no longer profitable. Rather than shutter its doors, the company pivoted to function solely as a c-store and gas station operator, shifting its stores to the Hot Spot name in 1982.

Even with the significant change in business model, Jordan noted the ways his father strived to stay nimble in this new silo.

"Dad was a pioneer in offering self-service gasoline in the Carolinas and also pioneered gasohol, an early version of the E10 fuel that is now everywhere," he said. "We would add ethanol to the regular 87 octane gas, raising the octane to 89."

With so much change happening over the decades — not only within R.L. Jordan Oil, but also in the industry itself — there have been staples that remain the same, according to Jordan. Customers still want a decent cup of coffee, a place to easily pick up tobacco products and a clean, well-maintained bathroom.

[Read more: CSN EXCLUSIVE: Raising the Bar on Convenience & Fuel Retailing]

The bigger changes lie more in the additional offerings that customers have come to expect from c-store chains, particularly more emphasis being placed on foodservice. That's been a challenge Hot Spot has been more than happy to accept.

"For many years, we have been proud of our hot dog offering," Jordan said. "We [also] operate numerous Subway restaurants integrated into our convenience store operations and we have been developing a pizza offering for a few years, [including] a gluten-free pizza that is delicious."

For urban-area locations, Hot Spot stores offer a selection of craft beers, many sourced locally. And like many retailers today, the company has added a loyalty program to help customers save money on their regularly purchased items.

Interior seating area for Hot Spot convenience store

Company & Community Loyalty

For Jordan, simply keeping it in the immediate family isn't enough and certainly isn't the sole reason for Hot Spot's long-term success. Employee retention and relationships have played a big part in allowing the company to maintain its independence for so long.

"Today, people want to belong to an organization that cares about them, their safety and their opportunities for advancement. Creating an environment that empowers our employees is critical," he said. "We have many employees who have worked with us for 20 years, 30 years and more. Multigenerations of families have worked for us and are still working for Hot Spot. Most of [our] management [team] has come from within the organization." 

Hot Spot also has worked to connect with the wider community, ensuring it gets involved in the places where its customers play and work. In its hometown of Spartanburg, the company assists in the planning and execution of a craft beer festival held every year. The retailer even has a local skate park named after it. 

Which isn't to say that Jordan or his siblings plan to rest on their laurels any time soon. In addition to ensuring their staff and community continue to have a safe environment to work and shop in, the company plans to keep looking for new opportunities to expand within its operational footprint of upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina.

[Read more: CSN EXCLUSIVE: Retail Employees Seek Better Communication & Flexibility]

And then, there's its 75th anniversary celebration this year. Weekly and monthly specials with the company's vendors will continue throughout the year, along with appearances by mascot Hottie at various parades and sporting events. 

For Jordan, the best part will be reaching out to local friends and family to let them know how much they've been appreciated over the past 75 years.  

"Dad always treated every customer and employee with respect," he said. "Every year has brought new challenges, new opportunities and the chance to grow our company and strengthen the bonds between our family and our employees. We enjoy working together, building our family and business relationships, and providing opportunities for our employees and customers."

Spartanburg-based R.L. Jordan Oil Co. operates 41 Hot Spot convenience stores, 13 Hottie's Kitchens, seven Subway restaurants, 12 Hunt Brothers Pizza locations and one Hardee's in North Carolina and South Carolina. 

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About the Author

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Amanda Koprowski

Amanda Koprowski is the associate editor at Convenience Store News. She is a new member of the team, having joined the company in December of 2022.

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