PINEVILE - It's only been around seven years, but a Wyoming County brand is quickly becoming an institution.
The E-Z Stop Convenience Stores are, according to Wyoming County native and one of the principal owners, Dr. Mike Muscari, "a local community store, owned by local people with local employees."
That's 40 employees, to be exact.
And the business is expanding.
In October, Muscari and his partners, wife Terri, Jeff and Tammy Halsey and Dr. Sam Muscari, known in the county simply as "Doc," opened their fourth E-Z Stop in Jesse, between Pineville and Oceana.
The group also owns and operates E-Z Stops at Bud, Brenton and Pineville.
"We look at it like this," Terri Muscari said. "It provides jobs and it provides convenience. It's a two-fold approach and a way to help and support our community."
The E-Z Stop franchise was actually the brainchild of Richie Walker, who serves as the general manager and runs the four locations.
He said he remembers sitting in Family Healthcare over seven years ago, getting ready to see Doc Muscari, when the idea of a convenience store came up.
As a vendor of other products, he'd often thought about being on the other side.
"I started talking to Mike about it, and six months or so later we had the Bud location," Walker said.
It might not have happened that easily, but Mike was sold and their small, local "investment team" made the leap, purchasing the Bud location from Jimmy Roberts in April 2011.
Six moths later, The Brenton location was opened in October 2011.
"It wouldn't be where it is right now if not for Richie Walker," Muscari said. "We wouldn't have pursued this if we didn't have his commitment to be on board with us. We felt like Richie's experience on the wholesale side would be a benefit on the other side of the counter, so to speak."
In the spring of 2017, the Pineville store was opened. It was the only E-Z Stop that was basically built from the ground up.
In October the new location in Jesse opened, conveniently located right off of U.S. Route 10.
The stores sell a little bit of everything, as a convenience store does by name, but the food is becoming a staple of the four local locations.
Customers have become regulars,enjoying the delicacies concocted by E-Z Stops cooks, whether it is at breakfast, lunch or dinner.
The pepperoni rolls are a favorite.
"We have a smokehouse burger, with ground beef and bacon that is popular," Walker said. "And our pizza has really taken off."
"We really don't put any restraints on our cooks," Muscari added. "We allow them to try out new things, and a lot of the time they come up with things that really take off. I've had people tell me that they like the taste of a certain product and it's because our cooks have the freedom to try new things."
E-Z Stop is, Walker said, Wyoming County proud.
"We take great pride in being a Wyoming County (enterprise), and we make it a point to be involved in the community, in the county, whether it's through the schools, the police departments, the fire departments," Walker said. The stores offer free coffee to members of the police and fire departments.
"We are always looking for ways to promote Wyoming County," Mike Muscari said. "We are proud of our community and we want to show the good things about our area."
The Muscaris have long been proponents of the county. The Family Health Care Classic high school basketball tournament was long a staple of the December schedule, featuring Westside and Wyoming East. The tournament annually drew some of the state's other top schools, like Robert C. Byrd, Fairmont, Bridgeport and Oak Hill over the years.
The Jesse, Brenton and Pineville E-Z Stops are open 24 hours a day.
Will the Wyoming County institution keep growing in the area?
Muscari smiled at the question.
"You never know," he said. One thing is certain. It will remain a Wyoming County staple.