Gateway Travel Center Sparks Growth
Gateway Travel Center Sparks Growth
A city of Mercedes tarp was up and there was a hint of rain off in the skies east of the groundbreaking site for the Gateway travel center development that community leaders say is just the beginning of what’s to come for the Mid-Valley city.
It was a mid-July afternoon when Mohamed Sharaf, the vice president of development for Victron Energy, Inc., stepped up to the microphone in front of community and business leaders and spoke of his belief in Mercedes and the welcome he has received.
“I could feel something different here,’’ said Sharaf, who will also be the travel center’s owner. “From day one, I felt so welcomed here. Mercedes is one of the best communities I’ve ever worked with. There is no community that’s more pro-business than Mercedes.’’
It’s high praise coming from a top executive representing one of the nation’s premier fuel distribution companies. Victron is also a major retail and property developer in Texas. The Dallas-area company is a leading fuel distributor for ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, Texaco and Conoco. It is based in Waxahachie. The Mercedes project was nearly two years in the making and as Sharaf spoke, bulldozers and workers were busy nearby levelling and moving dirt to make way for a development that will take up about the equivalent of two city blocks.
Gateway will be located on the intersection of Mile 2 E Road and Expressway 83, about a quarter mile east of the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets. Sharaf has said the main piece of the development will be reminiscent of a Buc-ee’s but with a look and design that will reflect the ranching history and livestock shows of Mercedes.
“We did a lot of market research and found there was no better location or city than this one for what we want to do,’’ Sharaf said at the July 13 groundbreaking. “We believe the travel center is going to give commuters between McAllen and Harlingen, as well as truckers, a new option. There will be noting like this in the (Rio Grande) Valley.’’
Up To The Challenge
The travel center will feature numerous gas pumps to fuel up with large and clean bathrooms inside that will include shower facilities. Customers will find a full-fledged Wendy’s inside to go with a higher-end convenience store and a deli. A Chick-fil-A will open next door to the travel center.
The exterior design will feature large photos of boot-making and the western cowboy and ranching heritage of Mercedes. The city’s western-flavored history appealed to Sharaf, who said his late father and founder of Victron, Ali Sharaf, grew up in a farming area of his native Syria.
“My father came from a community like this one, with small farming and agriculture, and I think it’s one reason we feel so welcome here,’’ Sharaf said. “One of things my father wanted to do was to come into a community like Mercedes to bring growth and opportunities You know, McAllen and that part of the Valley has plenty. Let’s see what Mercedes can do.’’
City leaders say they’re ready for the challenge and grateful for the opportunity Sharaf and Victron has given them.
“It says a lot for someone like Sharaf to see something in us and put it on the line for us,’’ said Fred Gonzalez, the president of the Mercedes Area Chamber of Commerce who is also the president of the board of the Development Corporation of Mercedes. “For someone of his caliber, leading such a large company to take a chance on a city that is in its infancy of development, it’s major. It has opened some eyes. We have other developers looking at Mercedes thanks to Sharaf bringing this project here.’’
The travel center will open in early 2023. For Mercedes, it will add to the recent opening of a Sonic CRUSH Drive-In and an under-construction Starbucks along the expressway just west of the outlet mall. Gonzalez referred to the open expressway corridor spaces Mercedes has available as retailers and developers look to fill in the gaps of Valley growth.
“We’ll go above and beyond to work with each developer,’’ Gonzalez said. “We’re open for business and we have plenty of land (along expressway), so we say come to Mercedes. In my heart of hearts, I believe it’s Mercedes’ turn, and today is the beginning of it, but there’s much more to come.’’
- Ricardo D. Cavazos