In its 50th year, Oklahoma City-based Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores Inc. this month plans to add hotels to what the company founder calls its “highway hospitality business” platform of fuel, fast food and convenience stores.
Tom Love announced the new initiative at a Junior Achievement event Thursday at Oklahoma City University’s Meinders School of Business.
Love’s, which Tom Love and his wife Judy founded as Musket Corp. in 1964 when they leased a filling station in Watonga, ranks No. 9 on Forbes’ list of America’s largest private companies. Love’s, which has grown to 300 retail outlets across 40 states, employs about 11,000 employees and reports gross annual revenues of more than $26 billion.
“We’ve gotten pretty good at operating and managing our platform of five to six moving parts: a convenience store, trucker store, gas and diesel fuel, and one or more branded restaurants in all our stores,” Love said. According to the company website, the latter includes Arby’s, Carl’s Jr., Chester’s Fried Chicken, Godfather’s Pizza, Hardee’s and McDonald’s.
Love’s three years ago added a heavy truck commercial tire business to its offerings, Love said, and has 180 light mechanical service shops, which it plans to grow to 300 by the end of 2016, he said.
“Each highway store is a profit center,” he said, “which, because of interlocking parts, has a competitive edge. For example, a McDonald’s restaurant may bring in gas and store sales. It all works pretty harmoniously.”
This year, Love’s will add about 42 highway stores, including some on secondary highways in rural Oklahoma, Love said. In west Texas and North Dakota, where there are staffing challenges, the company has bused workers from El Paso to Odessa or offered adjacent cut-rate living quarters in Williston, N.D., as an extended employee perk, he said.
Meanwhile, it moves tens of thousands of barrels of crude oil every several days via rail cars from Houston to the mountains, and from the Dakotas to the Gulf Coast, Love said.
The company, he said, last week opened a 90-room Wyndham hotel in Pecos, Texas, on Interstate 20 between El Paso and Odessa, which initially will be managed by St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Sky Hospitality. Managers plan to open five hotels a year for the next three years, Love said, with Sweetwater, Texas; Jasper, Ala.; and Mossy Head, Fla., following the Pecos hotel.
Along with the Wyndham Hotel Group, Love’s has been working with Marriott Hotels and the Hilton Hotels, Love said.
‘Our kids need you’
Tom Love shared the program on Thursday with Junior Achievement volunteers Adam Merritt and Heather Meldrum.
An employee of Bob Moore Auto Group, Merritt taught a Junior Achievement class to second-graders at Briarwood Elementary in Moore minutes before the May tornado hit May 20 of last year. When he spied the twister in his rearview mirror upon departure, he sought shelter at a nearby bank.
“I believe God put me in Briarwood, so I could talk about JA (Junior Achievement), since JA brought me there that day,” said Merritt, who said he feels like a “rock star” to his Junior Achievement students.
A former banker, Meldrum said her Junior Achievement voluntarism inspired her to go back to school at age 33 and earn her teaching degree. Today, she’s a fifth-grade teacher at the Stanley Hupfeld Academy at Western Village, and last year was named teacher of the year for Oklahoma City Public Schools.
“More than finding meaning for me, I saw what it (Junior Achievement) can do for the kids,” Meldrum said. The program, she said, offers relevancy and relationships. “Kids have the opportunity to see all they can do. That they can be an architect, banker or things they didn’t know existed.”
Second-graders learn how to vote, she said, while fifth-graders learn how to start a business, and high-school students learn to balance a checkbook. Urging others to volunteer, Meldrum said, “Our kids need you.”
Junior Achievement of Oklahoma is seeking workers of all levels to teach financial literacy, workplace readiness and entrepreneurial skills to students in kindergarten through the 12th grade. Using easy-to-follow prepared curriculum, volunteers each semester opt to teach one day for five to six hours, or one hour for five to six weeks. Nineteen volunteers are needed now to teach in the Oklahoma City schools. To volunteer, call (405) 235-3399 or email email@example.com.