Mardi Gras Zone adds buffet, fresh produce

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Mardi Gras Zone Truck Stop has lots to offer including gas, a restaurant, motel, and freshly grown produce from the owner Benny Naghi.

Mardi Gras Zone Truck Stop has lots to offer including a restaurant, gas station needs, motel, and freshly grown produce from the owner Benny Naghi.

Benny Naghi, owner of the Mardi Gras Zone Truck Stop in McNeill, said owning an iconic business comes with a special set of challenges.
“Business is like a clock. It is made up of many different parts and all those parts have to work perfectly for the time to be accurate. It is all important in order to get the exact results you are looking for,” said Naghi.
Mardi Gras Zone is the truck stop at exit 15 off Interstate-59 and is described by Naghi as a restaurant with gas station services that also offers groceries and produce he grows himself.
“I enjoy growing my own produce. There is no fertilizer, it is all organic which I take pride in. I raise chickens, produce eggs, citrus trees, apples, plums, peaches, and much more produce,” said Naghi.
The business has 19 employees who tend to the needs of truckers along with a number of local residents who use the place as a hub to gather and reminisce. Naghi said it may seem overwhelming, but he has worked hard to gain the knowledge to succeed.
“It is good to get advice from many different places, instead of just one. There is less likelihood of things going wrong when you seek advice from multiple venues. There is a safety net,” said Naghi.
Naghi is currently working on the motel located behind the truck stop, and hopes to open the 14 rooms for rent in June or July.
He also said he plans to renovate the main building of Mardi Gras Zone.
“This building was made 30 years ago, so it needs an upgrade and I want to give it that. This place has a very special character, and I do not wish to destroy the feel of it, just restore the foundation so it can be here even longer,” said Naghi.
He estimates the work will take two to three years to complete.
Naghi bought the business on October 21, 2015, and is fueled by his love of it. He also enjoys working in his garden.
“I do not want just another convenience store or just another rest area. I wish to build a place where you walk in and it feels like home. The character of the truck stop is something you do not get from every truck stop,” said Naghi.
This summer, Naghi said there will be daily specials for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the buffet. Also, his citrus trees will be producing more oranges, which will be available for purchase during the summer. Patrons can also buy meat from his farm.
When asked what he takes the most pride in, Naghi said, “I see this place as a community center for the citizens here. For me to have some sort of hand in it is very pleasing. It is sort of a magnet for the community. People of all ages come and build relationships here. To see all of that and to be able to provide a place where it can happen really does mean a lot to me.”
The convenience store is open 24 hours a day, and the buffet is now open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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