Allsup’s Convenience Stores founder Mr. Lonnie D. Allsup, 84, of Clovis, New Mexico, died Jan. 28 at his home.
Mr. Allsup was born Sept. 7, 1933, in Lubbock, Texas, to Roy and Ellen Reed Allsup. He was raised in and graduated from high school in Morton, Texas, where he played football and basketball. After graduation in 1950, he married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Barton, on Aug. 13 in Lubbock.
Mr. Allsup attended Hardin-Simmons University and Texas Tech University for two years. He joined the U.S. Air Force for four years and served his country in the U.S. and Japan during the Korean War.
Always in love with the grocery business, Mr. Allsup bought a small store in Roswell, New Mexico, and he and Barbara operated their first store, which they named Lonnie’s Drive-In Grocery. It was a predecessor of the modern-day convenience store, open seven days a week and later at night. Lonnie’s Drive-in had an open front, meaning the glass front of the building slid open like a garage door and merchandise was even displayed on the porch.
In addition to staple convenience store goods such as bread, milk and cigarettes, there also was a large display of in-season fresh fruit and a large display of soft drinks. Customers also could pick up cold watermelons on ice from a horse-watering tank in the parking lot.
Even in that first store, the founders had a vision that prepared hot foods would sell in a drive-in. Every day they prepared rotisserie chickens and ribs, spicy linked sausage and freshly made donuts.
Both of the Allsups worked in the store from opening to closing each day. Mr. Allsup’s knack for high-energy promotion and Mrs. Allsup’s ability to manage accounting systems and cash flow made them an effective team.
Capitalizing on an opportunity to buy a second store in 1958, and a third store the following year, the business was rapidly growing. By 1964, with two sons and 12 stores located in three towns, the Allsup family accepted an offer to sell the chain to Southland Corp. (7-Eleven). Terms of the sale restricted the Allsups from operating stores that would directly compete with Southland for 10 years, prompting a move to Clovis, New Mexico. There the family started a new group of stores operating under the Allsup’s Convenience Store banner.
The Allsup family quickly became known in their new hometown. They were involved in church functions, YMCA, Little League and many other activities. It did not take long for them to get back to 12 stores and then beyond. They continued to center their business model on the hot prepared foods and always experimented with new items. Icee, the frozen drink, was a huge success. Cotton candy, on the other hand, did not do so well.
By 1967, the Allsups began offering customers the option of self-serve gasoline. One unplanned obstacle was that drivers did not know how to fuel their own cars, so the education process began as gas station operators laughed at the idea that people would ever fuel their own cars.
The Allsup’s model proved successful. The stores were open 24 hours a day; all stores had self-serve fuel and hot prepared foods, including a new item, the fried burrito. Allsup’s had expanded its drink selection to include fountain drinks, which proved so popular that it was taking all of the clerks’ time to make the drinks. To solve that problem, they turned the drink machine around so the customers could make their own. The self-serve fountain drink, one of the first in the country, became wildly popular, and the “Tallsup” and burrito became the combo of choice.
Allsup’s had grown to 100 stores by 1977, with the Allsup’s Burrito, self-serve fountain drinks and gasoline providing the horsepower.
Today, the company operates 318 Allsup’s Convenience Stores. It became the 35th largest chain of convenience stores in the world—a long way from that single Lonnie’s Drive-in on 2nd Street in Roswell.
Mr. Allsup also had a passion for cutting horses (horses trained in separating cattle from a herd), which he was first introduced to by his father. In 1981, he began showing cutting horses. He later won a non-pro world championship. He continued to breed, train and show champion cutting horses for many years, and served a full term as president of the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA).
He was a member of the board of directors of Affiliated Foods, Tri-State Bakery, Plains Dairy and past president and lifetime director of NCHA.
He is survived by his wife; son, Mark (Jessica) Allsup of Fort Worth, Texas; five grandsons; two great-grandchildren; sister-in-law, Pat Evans; and numerous nieces and nephews.
The family request memorial contributions be made to Hardin-Simmons University, 2200 Hickory, Abilene, TX 79698; Tarleton State University, Box T-0260, Stephenville, TX 76402; or a charity of one’s choice.