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OKLAHOMA CITY — With a record year in the books, Love's Travel Stops plans to go a step further by opening 50 new stores in 2017.
The Oklahoma City-based retailer welcomed customers at 47 new locations in 2016, the most ever in one year in the company's history. The additions gave Love's 410 U.S. locations to start the new year.
As for 2017 growth, Love's plans to add more than 3,400 truck-parking spaces at new stores and expanding truck-parking at existing sites, plus Love's Truck Tire Care will continue to add locations and services.
"We're always listening to our customers to see what needs we can meet," said Frank Love, co-CEO of Love's. "Since 2008, Love's Truck Tire Care has been taking care of our customers' tire needs and we've consistently heard more tire and maintenance offerings would benefit drivers. We've added light mechanical services, and we introduced oil change capabilities in 2016. Providing our customers with these services helps keep them on the road."
According to the company, Love's Truck Tire Care has more than 260 locations, and it will continue adding light mechanical and oil change offerings to new and existing travel stops.
By the end of the year, more than 300 Love's Truck Tire Care sites will offer oil change and maintenance capabilities. Love's also recently introduced a retread option that is available at all stores with tire care. Most locations with tire care also offer TirePass, a system that measures tire pressure and automatically inflates low tires to the desired pressure.
Love's will also expand its reach this spring when it opens its travel stop in Hardin, Mont. The site will mark the company's first location in its 41st state.
In all, Love's will open stores across 25 states in 2017, including its second travel stop in Maryland, which is scheduled to open in Hagerstown this spring.
Between new store openings, support staff at the corporate office and expansion in other areas of the Love's Family of Companies, Love's will add approximately 3,000 new jobs in 2017, expanding its total employee count to an estimated 20,000, the company said.
All new travel stops offer amenities such as showers, truck parking, DEF and other driver services; and all locations feature one or more quick-service restaurants. Last year, Love's added three new brands at select locations and now operates six IHOP Express restaurants, two Dunkin' Donuts locations and one Taco John's restaurant.
Additional travel stops with the new concepts are scheduled to open this year, according to Love's.
The retailer will also expand its customer laundry facilities this year. Several travel stops already offer laundry, and approximately 100 locations will feature washers and dryers by the end of the year.
Other areas of growth include Love's Financial, which continues to serve small fleets with factoring services, and Love's Storage Solutions, which operates three self-storage locations adjacent to travel stops in Bridgeton, Mo., and El Paso and Sweetwater, Texas.
"We're excited about the developments at our travel stops and truck tire care centers, but 2017 will also be a big year for other members of the Love's Family of Companies," Frank Love said. "Gemini Motor Transport, Love's Hospitality and Trillium CNG all have a lot happening in the coming months."
- Gemini, Love's fuel-hauling fleet, will surpass 1,000 drivers and round out the year with a fleet of nearly 600 fuel tankers.
- Love's Hospitality is on track to open eight hotels in 2017, including Love's first Holiday Inn Express in Prosser, Wash., and Love's first Hampton Inn in Wells, Nev. Love's Hospitality will operate 19 hotels by the end of the year.
- The first wave of locations Trillium CNG will design, build and maintain as part of a public-private partnership reached with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will open early this year. The agreement brings 29 new compressed natural gas (CNG) stations to Pennsylvania. Other projects include an agreement to design, build, operate and maintain a CNG system for Gunnison County Colorado's fleet vehicles, as well as Gunnison Valley Regional Transit Authority. The facility is scheduled to open this year and will serve the public.
"We've grown because of the support of our loyal customers and we're happy that we can provide additional services at the travel stops and our associated businesses to help make their lives while traveling easier. We look forward to another great year of serving customers in 2017," Frank Love said.
FOUNDER'S THOUGHTS ON GROWTH
"It wasn't too long ago that we thought we were running out of space," said Tom Love, company founder and executive chairman. "We used to have a kind of rule of thumb about the gap between stores being 100 miles or more in the same corridor."
That distance is coming down — partially because there are more trucks on the road — to 50 or 60 miles, and in some cases even tighter, he said.
"In Van, Texas, we built a brand new store across the street from a successful but older location that was becoming overwhelmed," Tom Love explained. "It's been a killer. It's been a great move for us."
He added he is confident "we can keep the trajectory of growth of Love's pretty dynamic for a long time to come."
To view the full interview with Tom Love, click here.