New ownership brings dramatic transformation to Plankinton Roadside Food and Fuel

Heartland incentives aid in facelift, growth

The South Dakota Mail contributed to this story

Great ideas can present themselves in unusual places. The key is to act upon them.

While Cory Tobin was working cattle in his pasture one day, an idea hit him.

He called John Neuheisel, long-time owner of the Roadside Station in Plankinton, SD, to see if he would consider selling the store. John invited him in to talk and the two made an important connection.

Tobin’s idea was about to become reality.  Neuheisel believed his station, where he spent most of his life, would be in good hands with Tobin and his wife Shannon.

On May 20th, 2019, the Tobins officially became the new owners of Roadside Station. That’s when the real work began.

Facelift offers added conveniences

The Tobins spent a lot of time with general contractors to form a new vision for the station. The design plans were finalized in November and left in the hands of a trusted friend, Matt Schultz Construction of Parker, SD.

The entire building was transformed into an open space, combining dine-in facilities with convenience store items, as well as a place to gas up and refresh. With the new look, a new name was given – Roadside Food and Fuel.

The gas station underwent a major transformation, pictured here before and after.

Renovation included a new kitchen with fryer, grill and broaster.  Everything in the station is new, except for a dependable 1969 walk in cooler.

Both hot and cold food items are now offered throughout the day, from early morning breakfast to fresh-made salads, sandwiches, appetizers, and broasted chicken. Lunch specials are offered during the week.

Pam Van Gorp whips up freshly-made deviled eggs in the building’s new kitchen. Photo courtesy The South Dakota Mail.

A new drive-up window was added on the west side of the building for customer convenience. This includes picking up to-go food orders, as well as convenience store items. Tobin says it will also be useful in a January blizzard when customers can simply drive up and ask for any in-store item without having to get out of their vehicle. 

Fully stocked shelves and coolers of snack items and refreshments fill the north portion of the building, as well as automotive items and household sundries. 

In the south portion of the building is a refreshment and coffee bar, cold case, casino and fully renovated restrooms. Two brightly umbrellaed bistro tables are featured in the front for outdoor dining. 

Rebates help with upgrades

All new LED lights were installed in the building to replace outdated halogen and fluorescent fixtures. The energy efficient, brighter lights qualified for rebates from Heartland’s energy efficiency program, Power Forward.

The station received over $700 from Heartland in commercial lighting rebates.

The station was also able to take advantage of Heartland’s growth incentive program. New and expanding businesses are eligible for rebates on their electric bills equating to one year’s worth of free power over a three-year period.

The station was able to start taking advantage of the incentive in the third quarter of 2020, after renovations were complete.

In the first two quarters since becoming eligible, they have received over $4,000 in growth incentives.

“The Tobins have done a remarkable job with Roadside Food and Fuel,” said Heartland Chief Communications Officer Ann Hyland. “They essentially created a new business with something to offer everyone in Plankinton as well as those passing by on the interstate. Heartland is excited to see their positive impact on the community.”

LED lights brighten up the interior. Photo courtesy The South Dakota Mail.
Family affair

Roadside Food and Fuel is a quick and easy stop off Interstate 90 with quality Sinclair petroleum in addition to the new food offerings.

Twelve full- and part-time workers were added to the 7 original Roadside employees who stayed on. 

Some members of the Roadside crew: Pia Pryor, owner Cory Tobin, and Beth Thomas. Photo courtesy The South Dakota Mail.

The entire Tobin family has been active in managing the store as their sons Hadley, Griffin, Cain and Will have all taken an active role at the business, whether it be working in the kitchen, stocking shelves, or sweeping floors.

Hints of Plankinton nostalgia can be seen and felt at the Roadside with dining tables crafted from flooring from a former local grocery store floor. The Tobins also hope to add signage from local Main Street businesses to the interior décor to continue the hometown feel.

Tobin credits the success of the business to their employees. He is also appreciative of his business mentor, former owner John Neuheisel, for working the past year at the station, offering institutional knowledge and guidance.

Tobin is proud to be from Plankinton and is looking forward to playing an active role in the future of the community. “We’re all stewards of these businesses,” he says.

Power Forward making changes for 2021

Heartland’s energy efficiency program, Power Forward, will see minor changes take place in the new year.

Power Forward will continue offering rebates for upgrades to commercial lighting and refrigeration, lifetime electric water heaters, heating and cooling and residential lighting.

The greatest change will come on the commercial lighting form.

“Previously we offered per fixture rebates for upgrading from fluorescent lighting to LED,” said Heartland Chief Communications Officer Ann Hyland. “We are finding more and more businesses are simply upgrading the bulbs, so it makes more sense to do a per bulb rebate.”

Instead of offering a $20 or $30 rebate per fixture upgraded, the rebate for upgrading T12, T8 or T5 lighting will range from $2 to $5 per lamp, depending on the size of the LED installed.

There are a few different options for upgrading fluorescent fixtures to LED without changing out the entire fixture.

A ballast is required in fluorescent fixtures to regulate current and provide the proper amount of energy to fluorescent lights. LEDs do not require a ballast to regulate energy. You can upgrade to LED through ballast bypass, also knowns as type B, which removes the ballast from the existing fixture. Removing the ballast saves energy as it also draws power.

A plug and play, or direct fit linear LED, also knowns as type A, works with the existing ballast so no rewiring or ballast change is required.

There is also hybrid or dual technology (Type A&B), which works both as a plug and play with the existing ballast and once the ballast no longer works, can be removed and the lamp runs off line voltage.

Rebates will now be offered for occupancy sensors in commercial settings.

Rebates will be offered on any of these types of upgrades.

Rebates will also now be available for installing occupancy sensors in commercial settings. A $15 rebate will be offered for each sensor installed.

A separate rebate will be offered for LED wall packs. Older wall pack lighting may be high pressure sodium, mercury vapor or even fluorescent. A rebate of $20 or $30 will be available depending on the wattage of the LED being installed.

The other change to the Power Forward rebates reduces the per bulb rebate for residential lighting. The incentive for installing LED recessed can fixtures or retrofit kits will drop from $5 to $4. The rebate for installing a LED screw-in lamp will drop from $3 to $2 per bulb. Lamps must be ENERGY STAR rated in order to qualify for the rebate.

The remaining Power Forward programs will remain unchanged for 2021. New applications will be created and posted on the Heartland website after January 1. They will also be e-mailed to city offices.

If you have questions about Power Forward rebates, contact Hyland at 605-256-6536.

2016 brings changes to Heartland programs

Heartland’s energy efficiency and economic development programs remained popular with customers in 2015 and in order to ensure we continue to offer the best programs possible, we have made a few changes to our offerings for 2016.

The goal of Heartland’s energy efficiency rebate program is to encourage the purchase and use of the most efficient products available to replace older, inefficient products. LED is by far the most efficient lighting technology available, and has become more affordable over the past several years. Therefore, Heartland’s commercial lighting rebates will now only be offered on new LEDs that are replacing older technologies. Upgrades to T8s and T5s will no longer be listed on our applications; however, customized lighting rebates will still be available.

Two new categories have been added to our Energy Star appliance rebate program. Electric clothes dryers only recently became eligible to earn the Energy Star label and Heartland will offer a $50 rebate for residents who make the upgrade. Dehumidifiers with the Energy Star label are also now eligible for a $25 rebate for residential customers.

Residents who upgrade lighting to LED will still be eligible for rebates in the new year, but screw in LED bulbs are now only eligible for a $3 rebate and LED recessed cans or retrofit kits are eligible for $5. All lights must be Energy Star rated and each household may only receive a maximum lighting rebate of $100 per year.

Residents who purchase a lifetime warranty electric water heater may have to take one more step to qualify for Heartland’s rebate in 2016. Marathon water heaters no longer come with a lifetime warranty. Instead, they are purchased with a ten-year warranty, but homeowners can upgrade to a lifetime warranty for free by registering the water heater online within 90 days of installation. Proof of this registration will be required to receive the rebate on a Marathon water heater.

All changes outlined take effect January 1, 2016. All applications have been updated accordingly and are available on our website at

Industrial park development will be a new area of focus for Heartland’s economic development program in 2016. For our South Dakota customers, this includes helping them achieve the state’s Certified Ready Site status and assisting with the application process. Our economic development grant funding is available for the necessary upfront legal, engineering, and environmental costs. It is also available to help with infrastructure development in these industrial parks. In order to compete for new or expanding businesses, it’s important for a community to have an industrial park that can easily and quickly accommodate their needs. A Certified Ready Status also increases the community’s exposure with various real estate developers and site selectors on both a state and national level.

Heartland will also be looking to partner with economic development officials in attending various trade shows that will help promote our customer communities. This is also a good opportunity to network with site selectors, developers, and business owners who are looking to expand in our region. We would attend shows focusing on industries that each state is targeting in their own efforts.

Heartland’s existing programs, including our grants, growth incentives and HELP loan, will remain the same in 2016.