One of the friendliest people in Bull Shoals, Ark., was born in Mumbai, India. His name is Tejas Parekh, better known at T.J. He bought the Exxon convenience store in Bull Shoals just before the Elite Series came here last year, and quickly made a bunch of new friends.
For one thing, Parekh lowered the gasoline prices.
"We just went with the market rate," he said.
When the Elite Series comes to town, gas prices often go up, because people realize just how much fuel is consumed by these 250-horsepower outboards and the big rigs that pull them.
For another thing, Parekh opened extra early to accommodate the anglers.
He has followed that same plan this year, even more so. When he arrived the first day at 5 a.m. and saw anglers waiting, he started getting here at 4:45 the rest of the week.
Plus, he stocked up on the items that ran low during the tournament last year.
You don't have to be in this store long to realize that he takes time to take care of everyone, not just the Elite Series anglers. You can still write a personal check here, and it goes straight into the register, not through some electronic banking system, if Parekh recognizes you. And he seems to recognize almost everyone who walks through the door.
Parehk is especially thankful that the Elite Series has come back to Bull Shoals.
"I think I can speak for the whole town," he said. "We feel so fortunate you guys chose to come here for the second year in a row. You guys are putting us back on the map. Somehow it seemed like we were falling off of it."