By Pauline Masson

Pacific Missourian Editor

When the nation focuses on the 100th anniversary of Route 66 in 2026, one local business will be ahead of the curve.

When Leonard and Sheila Vogelgesang opened their Wayside Liquor and Service Station in Villa Ridge in 1984, they knew their business, at 3302 Highway 100, also was along a stretch of Route 66.

Even though it was already 58 years old, and a slower drive than Interstate 44 that parallels it through Pacific, motorists who stopped for gas and food often explained that they were traveling the entire Route 66 from Chicago to L.A.

“We were always a part of Route 66,” Sheila Vogelgesang said. “People have stopped here from all over.”

After serving so many early morning travelers, the couple added a breakfast deli, which was later expanded to a full-blown deli.

The owners recognized that recent interest in what some call America’s Main Street leading up to the 100th anniversary has revived the romance of Route 66 that can only help in promoting Wayside’s upcoming 35th anniversary celebration.

Even the federal government, state of Missouri and local communities are gearing up for a big celebration.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Route 66 Centennial Commission Act, forming a commission to celebrate the road’s centennial. The bill is now in the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

“Wayside Deli is going to play its part in the big celebration,” Sheila Vogelgesang said.

A glass showcase displays a collection of replica vehicles, Route 66 nicknames and vintage gas pumps with signs depicting the eight states the road crosses.

A large framed map of Route 66 that traces the route from Chicago to Los Angeles adorns the wall of the recently expanded Wayside Deli.

Celebrating 35 years at the location, Wayside will host its own anniversary celebration April 12-13.

The couple completely rebuilt the kitchen, adding deep fryers and a pizza oven, and expanded deli seating.

“We’ll be ready for the centennial celebration,” Vogelgesang said. “Every year there seems to be more interest in Route 66. We’re part of it.”