By RUTH MORGAN
For Starkville Daily News
Every town is fortunate to have a citizen who is a visionary who creates jobs, promotes culture and inspires residents to greater goals. Joe Weaver, supported by his wife Kay Weaver, was that person for Starkville. An innovative business leader, Mr. Weaver ran a series of businesses that included gas stations, convenience stores, truck stop services, restaurants and student housing.
“My father’s reach certainly went beyond Starkville,” said one of his two daughters, Ellen Weaver Hartman of Atlanta. “He was always interested in new inventions and a better way of doing things. He saw the big picture and was proud to be a part of Starkville’s development.
Mr. Weaver owned and operated the Weaver Oil Company for more than 50 years and was the first to develop a convenience store within a gas station. With a connoisseur’s eye for site selection, Mr. Weaver’s first station was located in Clayton Village and included a restaurant, which was popular with the truckers. The Clayton Village location also offered truckers showers and a place to sleep. The restaurant was later converted into a convenience store. Two more convenience stations would follow.
Mr. Weaver came from a long line of businessmen in the state. He bought the business from his father, Joseph F. Weaver of Ackerman, Miss. and for several years ran the Amoco Oil distributor for northeast Mississippi. His grandfather on his mother’s side was Levy Tomlison, who ran a successful Starkville livery and supply store.
“Dad would attend Amoco corporate events and franchisee conferences throughout the U.S.,” said Hartman. “He would also come back with new ideas and innovative concepts to try out in Starkville. What Dad learned was that operators could make more money inside the service station than they could on selling gas. That’s why gas marketers are using island and pump point of purchase devices to lure customers inside.”
Mr. Weaver built a state of the art Amoco station on the College Drive property. It included a store that was a convenience store, pizza take out, and a Bar-B-Q restaurant. Strombolis Italian Eatery currently occupies the convenience store’s location. When the new State 82 Highway was developed around Clayton Village, Mr. Weaver sold it and built another Amoco located at the corner of Highways 12 and 25.
Of course, Mr. Weaver sold more than gas and food. He knew that, especially during those times, a service station was as much of a center for the townspeople to gather as a beauty salon or a church social. Everyone knew that they could visit, enjoy a moon pie or a Coke and catch up on the latest news.
Mr. Weaver knew everyone in the area and also became close to those who worked for him. It wasn’t unusual for him to give a man traveling through the state a job at the Clayton Village store so he could complete his travels. Many of those workers were just down on their luck, and some just needed to earn some money in order to pursue their dreams. One such young man was a guitar-toting singer from Arkansas who was trying to reach Los Angeles. Grammy Award winner Glen Campbell could often be heard strumming the guitar and singing when the station was not busy; Mr. Weaver said he always knew Glen’s talent was in music rather than pumping gas.
As keen as his eye was for business, the Weavers also saw an opportunity to help local students, and built a trailer park behind their gas station for student housing. Perhaps they were sensitive to the needs of students because of their early years. In 1946, the Weavers married and literally built their own small one bedroom home at 201 N. Nash Street. “Mom was a superior carpenter which is apparent because the house is still in good shape on Nash Street and still being used for student housing,” said Hartman.
When they bought the property located at 408 East Main St. now University Drive, the lot contained a 1920’s style bungalow previously owned by J.E. Graham, the conductor of the GM&O Train. The Weavers’ moved the house to property they owned in Clayton Village. The home was renovated and was the family home through the early 1960’s. The Highway 12 service station also included a store, which Mrs. Weaver converted to a highly successful antique business.
“My parents traveled all over the country, buying beautiful antiques for the store,” said Hartman. “And my mom was a fabric artist who made beautiful, hand embroidered table runners, napkins, wall hangings and other home items, which she sold in the store.”
In addition to the service stations and convenience stores, the Weavers built a home on Highway 389 in 1968. Mrs. Weaver had followed Jackson Wrecking Company around for 10 years, buying and collecting an Antebellum stair case from a home in Columbus, 200-year-old beams from a log cabin, old pine hardwood floors, antique door hardware and moldings and finials from a home that was Sherman’s headquarters during the Civil War. These materials were used to accent the home, which sits on 167-acres, five miles outside Starkville.
“Dad loved to fly airplanes ever since coming back from WWII, so he built a grass runway on the property and bought a 150 Cessna,” said Hartman. “We would fly low and buzz the cows off the runway, then come back around to land the airplane.”
Mr. Weaver, an avid golfer, also was one of the first supporters of efforts to build the country club on Montgomery Ferry Road and an original supporter of the hospital’s Wellness Complex.
“Starkville was very fortunate to have my mother and father as citizens,” said Donna Kay Weaver Montfort, the Weavers’ daughter from Starkville. “They were active in the community, the hospital and provided jobs for its citizens. But I think if you asked my parents, they would say that they were lucky to live in Starkville. They were proud of their town.”