A grand reopening celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony were conducted Wednesday morning at TravelCenters of America in Seymour.

To the firefighters from all three of Seymour’s stations.

To the employee who went around to ensure co-workers and truck drivers got out of the building and was instrumental in their safety.

To the truck service manager for keeping that part of the business going to keep professional drivers going on the road and for breaking the previous year’s sales records.

To the general manager for being the “heart and soul” of the location, working hard and showing leadership.

To the store manager, restaurant manager, trainer, specialist, chef, contractor and construction, hospitality and marketing teams for their hard work.

An abundance of thanks was expressed Wednesday morning as TravelCenters of America in Seymour had a grand reopening celebration 15 months after a fire damaged the building’s west side and caused heavy smoke damage throughout.

Ever since then, the company, which is headquartered in Westlake, Ohio, has worked to get the facility at 2636 E. Tipton St. back up and running at full capacity.

In the meantime, officials decided to make changes to their properties, selecting Seymour as the starting point.

“This fire was a blessing in disguise in a strange way because we knew we were going to improve our properties around the country, but this gave us a chance to really go deeper into what we really wanted to create and really listen to our guests and professional drivers and redesign something really comprehensively around exactly what they tell us they want,” CEO Jon Pertchik said.

By the end of 2022, he said nearly 100 properties should be redone. They will include self-checkouts in the convenience store, full-service sit-down restaurants and other new concepts.

“We’re going to spend over $115 million, $120 million on just improving our IT infrastructure around the country,” Pertchik said. “You’d be surprised how many locations actually go down. Imagine being a driver and going to pay for fuel and you can’t because the site’s down. That will be a thing of the past within the next year or so.”

The biggest change at Seymour is two new restaurants inside: The Kitchen and Charleys Philly Steaks.

From breakfast to dinner and everything in between, The Kitchen serves up hearty homestyle meals made with fresh ingredients, according to ta-petro.com. Pertchik said it’s a new concept created by the hospitality team.

“We’ve had delis in our properties for many years, but this is like a deli that’s very focused on exactly what our drivers have told us they want and food offerings that are both real flavorful but also healthy,” he said.

District Manager Duane Harrison also is excited about The Kitchen.

“It is just an outstanding offer,” he said. “Our drivers are excited. I think the locals are excited. The food is amazing.”

Charleys Philly Steaks serves cheesesteaks, fries and real-fruit lemonades.

There also is a seating area for customers to use as well as a larger convenience store.

“This is by far the nicest convenience store/travel center/truck stop I’ve ever stepped into,” Pertchik said. “Gratitude to the entire team at TA as well as the community for getting us to this point. It’s really amazing. It’s a great, great spot that will continue to support drivers in this community.”

Seymour Mayor Matt Nicholson said a truck stop first opened on the property in 1967, starting as Boron Stop 50.

It became Truck Stops of America in 1989 and then TravelCenters of America in 2000.

“It has been a partner with the community for many, many years,” Nicholson said. “It’s great to see, as Jon described, the rise from the ashes, if you will. … When you walk inside, if you haven’t yet, go check it out. It is one of those places that it’s just night and day difference, and it turned into a beautiful facility.”

Pertchik said the community has really supported the business since the fire occurred. He recognized three Seymour firefighters in attendance — Matt Montgomery, Clay Hackman and Lt. Jason O’Neal.

“As first responders, these are the guys who run to the fire when we run away from the fire,” Pertchik said, drawing applause from those gathered Wednesday morning. “I appreciate you guys very much. Thanks for being here and your support.”

Harrison said he remembers receiving the call early the morning of the fire and upon arrival watching first responders do their best to save the building. It took them about 30 minutes to extinguish the fire, and no injuries were reported.

“I’m grateful for you guys,” he said. “The first responders in Seymour — the police department, the fire department — they’ve always been amazing partners with us. I’m grateful for what you guys have done and the support you’ve given us.”

Pertchik also thanked the contractor, Connor and Gaskins Unlimited LLC, and the construction management team for their work on the remodel. The contractor presented him with a glass trophy as a memento for the accomplishment.

“It’s a little bit of a physical manifestation, a symbol of what’s happening in our company more broadly,” he said. “Next year is our 50th anniversary. This is a great American company that has served drivers for literally half a century, and we’re right now in a moment where things like alternative energy and sustainable energy are coming along, and some of that’s accelerating.”

For TravelCenters of America, he said it presents huge opportunities.

“I know others in our industry are really fearful about it,” Pertchik said. “For us, we built a whole team around this and are very focused on it, are adding all kinds of things that sound almost futuristic, like hydrogen and other forms of energy to support truckers and drivers out there, so that will be part of the next 50 years.”

Wednesday was a really important day for the company in multiple ways, he said.

“This is a big deal for this community, it’s a big deal for us just what we’ve achieved here, but it’s also a bigger deal in the next 50 years of this great company because it is that first  step, that first symbol of where we’re taking the company, and you can touch and see and visualize,” Pertchik said. “It’s no longer a drawing on a piece of paper or a document that describes what we’re going to do. This is it, and this is going to be it in a lot of places as we go forward.”

Tina Arundel, director of communications for TravelCenters of America, said so many friends and partners were crucial in supporting the company and helping it deliver on its mission of returning every traveler to the road better than they came.

“Today, we stand before a brand-new, refreshed site, and it’s really part of the broader transformation happening at TravelCenters of America,” she said. “We really are so pleased to just raise the bar and provide unrivaled facilities for all of our guests, for all of the professional drivers and for the motorists. It’s really exciting to just give them all of these amenities and comforts that they deserve while they are traveling.”