By William Smith
Every lunch break, a handful of Danville High School students used to walk down Main Street, avoiding the crowded lunchroom.
It never took them more than a couple of minutes to arrive at The Mart gas station on old U.S. 34, no matter how slowly they walked and chatted. They dined on the usual convenience store options, planning their weekends around the video game rentals in the back.
It’s been years since the beloved local owner of the store, Paul Kloberdanz, died, and the doors were shuttered permanently.
Former Danville High School student Curtis Doyle wants to bring life back to the old building and turn it into a hub for the community — like it used to be.
When his girlfriend told him the store was for sale, Doyle jumped on it.
“I told her, ‘I’m buying that,’” Doyle said.
Doyle, who owns and operates The Outpost on Mount Pleasant Street in Burlington, closed on the property a few months ago. But he has no intention of reopening it as a gas station.
Instead, it will be a local diner — the only diner in Danville.
He’s already started renovation work, which follows a full day at The Outpost.
“It’s going to be a chore to get it going, but I think it’s going to be something for the betterment of the community,” he said.
“I want to hire people from within the community. I think it’s something Danville needs.”
No matter where he lives, Danville is home for Curtis Doyle. He admits to not being the best student and would occasionally chafe against the school administration.
But even then, he was working to better himself. Now he wants to work to better Danville.
“I was working, detasseling corn, when I was 12 or 13 years old. I was bailing hay for a buddy,” he said.
At 14 years old, Doyle got even more work experience through a job training program. Once he got out of high school, Doyle went to work as an over-the-road trucker for the next 10 years.
Doyle signed up for the U.S. Army and served for two years before blowing out his knee. When he came back home, he found out that the owner of The Mart, Paul, had passed away.
It never occurred to him that he would own The Mart. After returning home from the Army, Doyle went to work for LaVeine Sanitation for nine years.
Then he went to work for himself and purchased the former Crazy Coyote bar seven years ago. He changed the name to The Outpost about a year after buying it.
“I wanted to see what it was like to be my own boss,” Doyle said.
Doyle discovered he liked working for himself, despite the stress of the COVID-19 shutdown and the worries that make every small business owner fret. He has also operated a small lawn service business for nine years — a side hustle to earn spending money.
“I only have a couple of accounts,” he said.
Now Doyle’s attention outside The Outpost is focused squarely on The Mart. The workload is immense.
“It’s a total gut job,” he said.
Despite that, the building is in pretty good shape, Doyle said. The roof needs repair, but he’s hoping to open it this year.
Guests can expect to eat everything from pizza to ice cream to sub sandwiches. Doyle will be doing much of the cooking, just like at The Outpost.
“I’ve wanted to have a restaurant ever since I was a kid. I’ve always liked cooking. I kind of have a passion for it,” he said.
This won’t be gas station food. Just a friendly spot for neighbors hankering for a good meal.
“I think Danville needs this,” Doyle said.