Love's: Fifty Years of a Family's Enterprise
By Bob L. Blackburn
In 1964, with little money to invest and a growing family to support, Tom and Judy Love opened their first store in an old service station in Watonga, Oklahoma. It offered few frills other than “the cheapest gas in town.” Fifty years later, Love’s Travel Stops and Country Stores is the fastest growing chain of fueling stations in the nation serving a combination of car and truck traffic from coast to coast. This book traces the growth of that family enterprise.
The story begins on the frontier with the Love family of Chickasaw refugees who moved to the Indian Territory in search of new opportunity. They found it on the wide open prairies of the West, where mobility often made the difference between success and failure. Tom’s great-grandfather, Robert Jeremiah Love, found his opportunity along a newly laid railroad where he became a merchant, banker, and hotel owner.
Armed with confidence and this family legacy, Tom Love launched his little chain of full-service gasoline stations in western Oklahoma. Early innovations that gave his stations an edge included extended hours and non-fuel merchandise for the traveling public. The experimentation came together in 1972 with a new type of combination service station and convenience store in Guymon, Oklahoma. Tom called it a Mini-Stop Country Store open 24 hours a day with self-service gasoline.
Despite the Arab Oil Embargo, the little chain grew to additional states with the new name of Love’s Country Stores. The next leap forward was a mini-stop on steroids located on the emerging interstate highway system where fuel sales could be expanded to trucks. In 1981, the first Love’s Travel Stop opened in Amarillo, Texas. Following years of fierce competition and further experimentation, the company reached a turning point in 1997 that led to a new generation of leaders, greater efficiencies, and logistical advantages through Musket fuel trading and Gemini Transport. By 2013, the Love’s network included more than 300 Travel Stops and Country Stores with a growing number of Love’s Tire Centers.
For fifty years, two constants have never changed as the Love’s team faced challenges and considered opportunities. One is the belief that growth creates opportunities, even during the darkest hours when survival skills suggest a more conservative approach. To use a farmer’s saying, Tom Love never hunkered down. He moved forward and took everyone with him. The second constant is family ownership. The company was started as a family enterprise and it still is owned 100% by the Love family. The second generation is already leading the way and the third generation is on the way. With a unified vision and a belief in growth, Love’s will undoubtedly add new chapters to the story captured in this book.
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