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Pumping gasoline at a station.

Belleville-based MotoMart banks on its fan base for steady growth.

The Forsyth family knows a thing or two about running businesses that cater to current customers, while also anticipating what’s next.

After operating a coal mining business for years, James Forsyth Sr. shifted gears in 1955 as he saw auto sales surging and the nation’s highway system expanding. That’s when he purchased three small Missouri gas stations at a tax sale for the modest sum of $30,000.

Today, his grandson, Jim Forsyth, leads Moto., Inc., and its network of 80 MotoMart retail fuel and convenience stores. Now operating across six Midwestern states, Moto continues to grow at a rate of about one new store a year. Its most recent expansion has been in the Metro East, where the company has added new prototype locations in Belleville, Ill., its corporate headquarters, and neighboring Fairview Heights, in the past two years.

The 5,000-square-foot stores reflect the chain’s evolution from simple gas stations to one-stop destinations and community centers. In addition to fueling services, all 80 locations include convenience stores and 40% contain car washes. Newer Illinois locations also include gaming rooms where adult customers can play slots.

“The aim is not to invent a unique customer experience,” Forsyth explains, “but to be very good at doing what customers expect. By creating environments that are clean, safe and friendly, we hope to create fans along the way.”

Forsyth says his team is always on the lookout for new services and conveniences that give customers a new reason to stop by. “That’s why we offer memberships to our car washes,” he says. “It’s also why some locations include a Commerce Bank ATM.”

Forsyth chose Commerce as its ATM partner for a simple reason: Commerce has been the company’s primary bank since it purchased Moto’s former bank some 40 years ago. “I’m a loyal person, and Commerce has been good to us,” says Forsyth, who also serves on the bank’s St. Louis Advisory Board. “It just makes sense to deal with people we like and trust.”

Over their decades-long relationship, Moto has relied on Commerce for treasury services, purchasing cards, a line of credit and other financial services. The family’s commercial real estate business has also financed the acquisition of some MotoMart properties with loans from the bank.

“Our new prototypes require a 2.5-acre site, which is larger than our older properties required and can be difficult to find in saturated, high-traffic areas,” Forsyth explains. That’s one reason the company continues to plan for what’s next.

Moto currently has four Missouri properties under contract as it awaits the completion of new roads and the traffic they will bring to its stores. “We’re identifying where future growth is expected and securing new spots now to get ahead of the curve before our industry is built out,” he says. “When it’s time to begin construction, we’ll choose the services that match current consumer demand.”

“Commerce understands our approach and provides us with the services we need to support our goals,” Forsyth says. “The people are great — responsive and honest with A-1 integrity. Commerce is everything I want in a bank.”

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