Entrepreneur Nathan Long fuels the success of a thriving endeavor—looks to Paducah Bank for inspiration
When Nathan Long, managing owner of Paducah-based Cheers Food and Fuel, decided to step out on his own and go into the business he had grown up with, the decision was much more than just a financial one.
“I figured I’d work for my granddad the rest of my life,” says Long about his time at Duke and Long, local operators of regional gas stations and convenience stores. “I started working in the business as a teenager. But in 2000, the business was sold. I went to work for the new owners overseeing about 65 stores. But then they ceased operations and sold out in 2002. I was faced with having to move, but I really wanted to stay in Paducah. My family and friends are here. So, I decided to jump off the deep end and take a chance!”
Long partnered with Wayne Golightly and bought 14 stores and kept 8 of them.
“We wanted to make sure we had a strong team to form a firm foundation with. We had many great employees from our previous locations. They already had a great track record, and we had been through some really tough times together.
“One of the cornerstones we started with was creating a work environment that our people loved. If they are happy to be there, it works toward everyone’s overall good. Paducah Bank was actually a model for us in that regard. They were already a great support and fit for our business, but they are also a great role model for how to run a business. They are an employer of choice. We learned how they got there because we want the same in our locations.”
So far, Long’s philosophy of business has helped Cheers thrive. Cheers demolished its Exit Three location and expanded it to include more fuel lanes and restaurants that include a breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu, as well as pizza and sub sandwiches. The Cheers liquor store was also expanded and includes a variety of wines, bourbons, and beer. “We saw a great deal of potential there with the interstate exit and the Olivet development. We wanted to really expand our vision of what we already had there.” And Cheers has expanded well beyond the 8 original locations.
“We now have 19 locations in all, including several restaurants. But we want our growth to be slow and smart,” Long comments.
Long’s desire to remain local continues to be strong. “We really want to stay within an hour to an hour and a half radius from Paducah. Remaining close to home is important to me.
“And I know we will continue to look to Paducah Bank for inspiration,” adds Long. “They are great to work with and a perfect match for our business. But they are also a benchmark for us. If we can be successful in the same areas they are, we will continue to grow and thrive.”