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An expression of caring

Randy Thom became owner of 61 Express in December 2017. This is the fourth gas station Thom has purchased since 2015. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
Randy Thom re-opened 61 Express in Frontenac, Minn., with fresh broasted chicken. He's bringing this menu item to Red Barn in Spring Valley, Wis., later this year. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
61 Express offers fresh groceries and liquor in addition to broasted chicken, cigarettes and an assortment of snacks. Sarah Hansen / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

Try talking to Randy Thom at one of his four gas stations — Red Barn in Spring Valley, Wis., 63 Express in Hager City, 35 Express in Maiden Rock or the newly acquired 61 Express in Frontenac — and you'll find he's a very busy man. He's leaping up to help customers, pulling fresh chicken out of the broaster, cracking jokes with old friends and generally proving that a gas station can be more than just a stop along the road.

Thom began working for himself after a lifetime of working with his parents, Roland and Rose Thom, at The Woodshed Pizza, Bar and Liquor Store in Hager City.

At 61 Express and the Red Barn Bar and Grill, Discount Liquor and Convenience Store, Thom continues to serve up his family's famous pizza, either by the slice or through carryout. But there's another thing he's serving up as a new business owner: the value of hard work.

"I think the more you work your mind on things the more you'll keep yourself out of trouble," Thom said — and he loves to work. Either at his gas stations or at home raising goats with his wife and three (human) kids, Thom is always on the move. He said he doesn't get much from technology and would rather be talking directly to people or cleaning, improving and making things happen.

A particular goal for Thom is training up the next generation. He said some kids today are lacking a commitment to hard work and to each other. But by setting an example for them and creating work opportunities, he hopes to share some of the same lessons he learned as a 14-year-old boy (and beyond) working for Pierce County, his parents and the airlines.

Both in terms of workforce and facilities, Thom is eager to reinvest in the communities he serves. Since acquiring Red Barn in 2015, Thom has made renovations and modernized all four of his properties to the tune of $600,000. By making upgrades to tanks and replace lining and sump pumps, he's hoping the stores will be viable long term. Ideally, for a time when he can hand over the shops to his children and begin working for them.

"Look at all the jobs out here," Thom said. "We've got all these opportunities for kids, all you've got to do is go out and work. Work every day, you'll make something of yourself."

61 Express, the latest addition to Thom's stable of gas stations, was purchased in December 2017. It features premium fuel, live bait, fresh groceries, a full liquor store, friendly staff and broasted chicken.

Thom said he plans to bring broasted chicken to Red Barn later this year.