Over the past several years, El Reno has experienced an electrifying surge of economic growth.
New businesses seem to pop up every couple of months, some of them owned by large corporations.
Even so, it appears the time-honored mom and pop stores are here to stay.
Ruddie Leathers owns Ruddie’s Gas Station at Elm and Country Club. A new, much larger store, Casey’s, has opened across the street.
Leathers said he has always faced competition, as there are numerous convenience stores/gas stations scattered all over town.
Though the new Casey’s has opened just yards away, Leathers said he isn’t very worried. He’s had loyal customers for many years, a few of them developing close friendships with the store’s employees.
Some people stop at Ruddie’s every morning before work for coffee, a snack and conversation.
Leathers said he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“People come here every morning to hang out before work,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of loyal customers.”
The building was constructed in the 1970s. It was originally a Wag-A-Bag before becoming a Coastal Mart, where Leathers managed for five years. Then in 1997, he became the new owner and made it his namesake.
One thing the store has always had the market on is fishing. The bait shop in the back of the store has served the fishing community for decades, selling a variety of bait and tackle including minnows, worms, goldfish, shrimp, shad, liver and assorted stink baits.
Leathers said there are people who fish throughout the year, but a big spike in business occurs around the time of the annual Kids Fishing Derby by the Sportsmans Club.
“The fishing’s always been a pretty good deal for the kids,” he said.
Though the store doesn’t sell state fishing licenses, it does sell local ones as well as camping and boating permits.
The business has made several changes over the last few months.
In November, a new beer cave was added, and the store has a full selection of cold and warm wines. About two weeks ago, new gas pumps were added.
More changes will occur in the near future including cosmetic updates to the lights on the pumps’ overhead canopy. The fuel supplier will also be changed to Conoco within the next 30 days.
New parking lot striping will also be added in front of the store as well as new paint under the awning and other cosmetic changes.
Ruddie’s has also offered cooked hot dogs and though a new roller grill was added last month, there aren't any plans to expand the food.
“We want to keep it simple,” said Leathers. “If I wanted a restaurant I would go into the restaurant business. It’s not my cup of tea. I’m going to stick with what I know best.”
Leathers and his wife, Susan, say that serving El Reno the past 22 years has filled them with pride.
“All our money stays in the El Reno community. It doesn’t go to an outside company,” said Susan. “We love El Reno very much and we’ve supported it for over 20 years.”
“We’re just a little family trying to make it,” said Leathers.
Counting the owners, the store has six employees and is hiring. It is open every day from 5:30 a.m. to 1 a.m.