Photo by Nolan Madden
John Smith (left) and Bob Williams (right) of Keith Gross Contracting assess the Hopi Travel Plaza marquee sign Aug. 13 before its repaint the following day.
By Nolan Madden
April 13 was a milestone in the nearly four-decade history of Holbrook’s Hopi Travel Plaza, as it marked the beginning of a new era for the plaza as an oasis for rest, refueling and refreshment along the Route 66 and Interstate 40 corridors.
The truck stop was built in the late 1970s and has been owned by the Hopi Nation since 2001, at which time it became known as the Hopi Travel Plaza. It receives thousands of visitors each week, including truck drivers, travelers and local patrons.
A Snowflake native, the plaza’s new general manager, Kelly Jarvis, served as general manager of the travel plaza prior to its corporate restructure in 2012, afterward serving as general manager of Denny’s Restaurant in Holbrook. Jarvis was enlisted to resume management of the plaza by new executives of the Hopi Tribe Economic Development Corporation (HTEDC), and is now at the helm of the travel center’s massive renovation, which is underway.
HTEDC owns and operates a diverse portfolio of tribal investment properties throughout northern Arizona, including the Hopi Travel Plaza, Walpi Housing in Hopi Nation, Hopi Cultural Center in Second Mesa, Days Inn Kokopelli in Sedona, and Heritage Square, Continental Plaza and Kachina Square in Flagstaff.
Jarvis said that at the time of his return four months ago, the travel plaza was “going down, spiraling desperately out of control,” having declined into a dire state of dwindling profits, mismanagement and physical neglect. As an example, he related that the plaza’s convenience store operated with about $15,000 worth of retail merchandise on hand, versus the required $40,000 to $80,000 of saleable inventory needed to turn a profit.
Jarvis said he worked to assess and reset the plaza’s ailing operational areas. “We’ve done a full reset and now have a fully stocked, fully functional C-store. We have a C-store store manager, we have a C-store assistant manager, we have a restaurant manager, all in place to help us build. That’s what under new management means, back to the way things should be,” he explained.
Jarvis and his team’s renovation is being undertaken holistically, rather than cosmetically or piecemeal. Under the oversight of new HTEDC Chief Executive Officer Chuck Thompson, Jarvis has made significant structural improvements to the plaza. “Phase one is replacement of the roof, as well as installation of a 48-camera security system and upgraded phone system, which was completed last week. Phase two is installation of a brand new HVAC system for the entire complex and repaint, immediately afterward. We’re in the process of updating our website as well,” he noted.
Beginning Aug. 4, Dr. Mathew D. Moore, certified medical examiner for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), located his practice at the plaza, offering DOT physicals and chiropractic treatments on site.
Jarvis envisions the installation of an RV park and hogan-style hotel units on the grounds immediately encircling the plaza’s sprawling property, with the support of tribal and government grant funds.
Renovation of the complex has also included a complete revamp of its onsite commercial suites and business office space. Next on Jarvis’ priority list is an upgrade of all of the plaza’s outdated fuel pumps to integrate the Europay, Mastercard, Visa (EMV) security protocol for payment terminals and automated teller machines. EMV cards are smart cards (also called chip cards or IC cards) which store their data on integrated circuits rather than magnetic stripes to more securely protect consumer bank and transaction data.
“We’re here to stay. Failure is not an option for us. This plaza is the eastern gateway to the Hopi lands. We’re not closing, we’re moving 110 percent forward and in 180 degrees opposite of the direction we were,” he said enthusiastically.
“My passion comes from a love of the Hopi people. I grew up around Native American culture, and my determination to make money for them is because of my love for them and the Hopi community. If I can help them to have a better economic status in our world, then that’s what I’m here to do,” said Jarvis.
“Yeah, I make a living at it, but I love it. It’s not like it’s work for me. It’s absolutely fun to see the things that need to happen to make this a real viable part of our community actually happen.”