Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Diligence, Good Sites Give Love Midas Touch

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Diligence, Good Sites Give Love Midas Touch

Article excerpt

Tom Love was a failure as a student _ twice.

He was only average as a Marine.

But when he turned his hand to business, Love found he had the Midas touch.

From a standing start with an abandoned filling station in rural Oklahoma, Love has leaped to the head of a chain of 130 convenience and travel stores bearing his name in six states. The company has nearly 2,000 employees, with more than 40 of them in the Oklahoma City headquarters, 10601 N. Pennsylvania Ave.

Since the company is a privately held corporation, Love did not release sales or income statistics.

Love's Travel Stops stretch along interstate highways in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Texas, Colorado and New Mexico.

More are on the way.

Love has been accused of having the Midas touch for years because "when we open a store, it (sales) just goes swoosh, like that," he said while gesturing with an steep upward movement.

While there's a certain amount of the so-called Midas touch in the new stores, Love told The Monday Interview, "it's been a lot of diligent, hard work making sure we were in the right spot.

"We always hoped we had the right location, and we were lucky. It was the same with Watonga, Guymon and Amarillo, we were lucky to be in the right location. I've always said that I'd rather be lucky than smart."

From that discount filling station in Watonga, opened in 1964, has come Love's Country Stores Inc., a major regional convenience store and travel stop chain.

When the company incorporated in 1964, it was Musket Oil Inc., but in 1990, the parent company became Love's Country Stores Inc.

Musket Oil Inc. is a fuel distribution company and parent of Go! Systems, providing fleet refueling for small company fleets and compressed natural gas refueling stations at several Love's Travel Stops.

This growth has come from watching the market, studying the competition and recognizing trends early.

"By the time we're done, if you drive Interstate 40 from the Mississippi River to California you'll have passed 30 Love's Travel Centers. Hopefully, you'll have stopped at a few of them and we will have made a convert.

"Right now, between Little Rock and Oklahoma City, we've got at least 80 percent of the market."

Love's Travel Centers also are along I-35, spaced as they are along I-40, about 200 miles apart, which is more than just a convenience for motorists; it's also a strong advertising medium.

"Each location has a huge on-site sign that says `Love's' and has the big heart. There are three or four big billboards either way approaching the travel center. By the time you've traveled any distance, you've been exposed to the Love's name least a half-a-dozen times."

Love didn't start out with the idea of building a major travel stop and convenience store chain, but it's become "the best job I could have. I just can't imagine myself doing anything else. I love this job. That's why I spend most of my time on the job. I'm either traveling the system, visiting the stores, talking with customers and employees or I'm studying the competition and the industry. I really don't spend a lot of time in the office, though."

Like a lot of Oklahoma City boys during his growing up years, Love wanted to be a cowboy. That dream never came true, "but this is the next best thing."

Love also wanted a college education. After graduating from St. Gregory's High School in Shawnee, he tried his hand at St. John's University in St. Cloud, Minn. for almost one semester. He flunked out and joined the U.S. Marine Corps where he worked his way to corporal during the three-year stint, an average career.

"When I got of the Marines, I got married and thought I had learned my lesson, so I decided to try my hand at college one more time," he said. "I thought I was doing great, but unfortunately, my assessment was not shared by everyone."

As a result, he flunked out of the University of Oklahoma. …

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