Gas and grub from Pastor Robinson -- Boyd Church of God pastor "moonlights" at convenience store

Wednesday, June 4, 2003
Boyd Church of God Pastor Les Robinson seasons some catfish strips as he readies for the noon-time lunch trade at his Oak Grove Gas and Grub. CCN / E. Alan Long

Les Robinson had to call the sheriff's office Tuesday.

Apparently a pickup pulling a boat sideswiped a box at one end of his gas bay, and left without reporting it.

Robinson is the pastor of Boyd Church of God and operates Oak Grove Gas and Grub ---- just about the only business in this small, northeast Carroll County town near the Missouri border.

So what is a pastor doing running a country convenience store?

"You tell me and we'll both know," Robinson joked.

At 52, Robinson is one of those fortunate men who does not look his age.

"I used to manage convenience and grocery stores when I was younger," he explained. "My wife died a year ago in January, and I needed something to keep me occupied. I decided to buy it, and man, does it keep me occupied."

He worked as a chaplain at Tyson Foods, but after he got the store back up and running he had to quit that job. "I couldn't do that and keep up with this and pastor the church."

His congregation at Boyd, perhaps best-known for its walk-through nativity and reception at Christmas time, is a small group of 70 to 80 members, he explained. He has no benefits or retirement built up from his pastoral career.

"As a minister I believe in the imminent return of Christ, but scripture tells us to carry on as though it is not," he said. "But it could happen any day.

"I figured this will be something that I could invest in, and if I make it to retirement, it would be something I could rely on."

Robinson is assisted at the store by his daughter and son-in-law, who moved to Oak Grove from Tulsa.

"Pastoring comes first," he said, "the hospital visits, whatever is needed to be done. I can trust my daughter and her husband to take care of the business, and I can take care of the church."

As an added benefit, Robinson gets to be closer with his four grandchildren, three boys, ages 7, 5 and 3 years, and an 18-month-old girl who doesn't let the boys get away with anything, he said.

Another child, Robinson's son, and his wife, live in nearby Green Forest.

The pastor enjoys meeting the many different people, both locals and tourists, who pass through the store, which is the only place between Blue Eye and Berryville to get a jug of milk or a loaf of bread. "People are really friendly if you give them the opportunity to talk."

He said it is amazing how small a world it is. As an example he describes a woman at his church who, unknown to Robinson, had lived in Oregon. As it turned out, his son-in-law, Bryan Odom, and the woman went to high school together in Oregon. "What's the chances of that?" Robinson asked.

Robinson purchased the store on Oct. 24, and, after remodeling it to add food service, opened on Dec. 26. "This is the only game in town," he admits, believing that local people realized how much they missed the convenience of the store while it was closed, before he bought it. "To get gas for their lawn mower, they had to go 10 to 12 miles."

"The response has truly exceeded my greatest expectations, " he said. "The hot food business is doing great."

The food service runs across the front of the store, and includes catfish strips, which are cut into strips on site, and one-third- and half-pound hamburgers made from ground round. At most convenience stores, he said, the food is ready-prepared.

"We had a real good Memorial Day on Monday," he said, with a large number of tourists. "We're sort of an information center for Branson to Eureka Springs. They get lost here, and need directions."

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