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Johnson's Corner continues legacy of great food, service

By Larry Dreiling

As a kid, my parents would make a Sunday drive every couple of months or so from the Denver suburbs up to Fort Collins, Colo., to visit my Uncle Joe and Aunt Louise, who'd usually reciprocate in the months in between.

The routine was pretty usual: Early Mass, then we'd all pile in the car and head up I-25. All the way up the highway, we'd see these huge yellow signs telling us how far it was to Johnson's Corner, where we'd take a breakfast stop.

Built just a few years before I was born--and shortly before I-25 would run right in front of it--Johnson's Corner has been a landmark to truckers and all other travelers in northern Colorado since 1951.

And those big yellow signs? They're still around, too, beckoning me and lots of others off the highway and into the parking lot to come on in, take a break, have a good meal and enjoy the company of family and friends--even the ones you've just met at the counter or an adjoining booth. It's pretty friendly.

Since the time when Joe Johnson and his business partner, Clayton Bearly, started Johnson's Corner to the opening of I-25 in 1954, to today, Johnson's Corner has never closed. Even when Joe Johnson died, in 1981, the big truck stop didn't close. Today, it's owned and managed by his stepson, Chauncey Taylor, keeping a vow to his mother to keep the place in family hands and to never let it close.

Never was this vow more true than about five years ago, when Taylor decided to embark on a massive remodeling project to bring Johnson's Corner up to date for another 50 years of service to motorists and truckers. Remodeling went on while the truck stop stayed open.

The cost of the project was $6.5 million. Everything became new while still retaining the cozy touches of yesterday. The convenience store got a huge expansion, while the smoking area picked up a new enclosed ventilation system. The overall space had to have been expanded by at least one-third the original. The kitchen was completely redone; more seating was added as Taylor acquired more land around the old facility to add a slew of new parking spaces while moving the fueling areas to the south.

The key to any great truck stop is great food. There are plenty of hash houses out there, but few with the pride of service and flavor of food as Johnson's Corner.

Probably the one big specialty item Johnson's Corner is known for is their "World Famous Cinnamon Roll," which for $2.50 is a pretty good buy. They're popular, too. About 750 of these rolls are sold daily.

Breakfast is served simple, but in nice variety. Sure, you can get bacon and eggs, but corned beef, pork chops, and German sausage is also available.

The lunch menu has a big sandwich menu. There's no salad bar, but there are a number of salad and soup selections. Try the teriyaki chicken salad. It's a nice meal in itself.

One of the things I've noticed lately is that the truck stop business is realizing that truckers and travelers are watching their weight more vigorously than before. Johnson's Corner is no exception, with an extensive "modest dinner" menu with smaller portions that retain good tasting items.

That helps you leave room for pie. There's always room for pie. Like the cinnamon rolls, the pies--and cakes--are homemade. All of this good stuff is served up by a really nice wait staff.

A truck stop is more than food. It's a place to relax and, for truckers, an extension of their rolling offices. The trucker services area is way more than extensive, with creature comforts I've not seen anywhere before.

Trucker showers with hot tubs? This is the first place I've heard of or seen pictures of them. There's a huge truckers' lounge, a nice laundry area, and a big phone bank, which, even in the days of cell phones, still gets plenty of use.

The convenience store expansion includes a "Travelin' Pets" section, with pet food, special treats and other needs. It's amazing how many people in trucking and other businesses travel with their companion animals.

While they are not attached to the truck stop, around the main facility is a motel, an extensive diesel and auto repair shop, a trucker's chapel and an RV park with a service center.

Taking care of truckers and travelers is what Johnson's Corner has been doing for more than 50 years. Obviously, the new generation of ownership loves the place and loves the clientele it serves. It shows in the new look and in the faces of its employees.

Johnson's Corner

2842 S.E. Frontage Rd.

(I-25 and Exit 254)

Loveland, CO 80537

(970) 667-2069

Always open.

Seniors and kids menu, with 10 percent discounts for seniors on regular menu items.

Credit cards accepted.

Larry Dreiling can be reached by phone at 785-628-1117 or by e-mail at ldreiling@aol.com.

10/6/08
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Date: 10/2/08


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