Anyone who pulls into the 395 Quick Stop can travel the nation in a matter of seconds, running their eyes over a rainbow of license plates from every state covering the wall of the shop — but the drive-thru convenience store’s roots are planted firmly in Hermiston.
“I came across the license plates a few years back, and I’ve had customers bring them to me,” said owner Junior Ortega. “That Florida plate, a customer brought it for me.”
Such camaraderie has become normal between Ortega and his customers since the Hermiston native opened his drive-thru convenience store, 395 Quick Stop, five years ago on Christmas Day. As he patched up a hole in the driveway on Thursday, he kept pausing to wave as drivers waved and honked at him.
Three employees, including Ortega, keep the store running, making snacks and drinks or bringing packaged goods like sodas and candy out to guests, who don’t have to leave their cars. Open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday-Saturday, Ortega spends most of his time at the store. He recently started closing the shop on Sundays so he can spend more time with his family, which includes four sons.
With a background in sales, Ortega said he has always enjoyed thinking of new ideas and ways to provide a service. The store started out as a simple convenience store, selling packaged snacks and sodas, as well as beer and items like bags of ice — but allowing people to stay in their cars while employees bring the items right to their windows.
Ortega has added new things, some at the request of customers and others his own ideas.
“Like gallons of milk,” he said. “That was the suggestion of a customer. We do things like ‘build your own six-pack’ of beer. I try to keep an open mind.”
Tostilocos, fruit cups with chamoy, cups of corn and bionicos, Mexican snacks and desserts, have been added to the menu, as are some specialty lemonades and Red Bull drinks. Come spring, he hopes to expand the menu even further, adding street tacos and burritos.
Though some of the specialty items, like the flavored lemonades, have become especially popular with customers, Ortega said he believes the atmosphere of the store is what keeps people coming back.
“We get all kinds of different customers,” he said. “The easiest way to tell if they’re new is when they come in the drive-thru the wrong way.”
Though the interactions are short, with hundreds of customers driving through each day, Ortega said he tries to make everyone who comes through feel welcome.
Jordan Sharp, who came through the drive-thru on Thursday afternoon, said she’s been coming to the Quick Stop since it opened.
“We were really excited,” she said. “It’s so convenient. I hated dragging my kids into a gas station.”
They enjoy the corn and Takis with cheese, as well as the interaction with the store’s employees.
“It’s fun that they do trivia and give away drinks,” she said.
“We keep it pretty simple,” Ortega said. “You take care of the people who take care of you.”
He also interacts with his customers regularly on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter, posting multiple times a day, with specials and trivia questions that customers can answer when they drive through.
“Social media is my cup of tea,” he said.
Earlier in the week, he posted a poll, asking customers which of the store’s three employees they’d like to see dressed up as Santa Claus while they work this Saturday. Customers, of course, chose Ortega, so he donned a St. Nick suit for the weekend as he worked.
“Our customers are what make the whole idea fun,” he said. “I’m really big on relationships, and I’m pretty happy with what we’ve put together in the past five years.”