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Founder of family-owned truck stop giant Love’s dead at 85

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The founder of one of the nation’s largest truck stop chains passed away early Tuesday from an illness.

Love’s Travel Stops founder Tom Love died at age 85 in his hometown of Oklahoma City, according to a news release from the company.

Love was born in 1937 in Oklahoma City and married his wife Judy in 1960.

“In 1964, Tom and Judy Love used $5,000 to lease an abandoned service station in Watonga, a small rural town northwest of Oklahoma City. From a modest beginning, the then-named Musket Corporation opened 40 stores in eight years in western Oklahoma. Tom’s keen and discerning sense for business and vision to grow the company resulted in Love’s establishing a new concept – the country store – that combined existing business models for grocery and convenience stores with a self-service gas station. In 1972, Tom’s country store in Guymon, Oklahoma, became the first store in the nation to combine self-service gasoline and grocery items.  The original country store featured self-service gasoline, grocery and dairy items and offered extended hours, seven days a week. This new store model would help Love’s eventually emerge as one of the most successful private businesses in America,” the company stated.

Tom Love opened his first travel stop on I-40 in Amarillo, Texas, in 1981.

Since then, the company has expanded dramatically, opening the 600th Love’s store in October 2022.

“Tom Love was a man of conviction who never wavered from the principles of honesty and integrity in the 59 years he spent developing the company he started with his wife, Judy,” said Shane Wharton, president of Love’s. “These tenets still guide our company and will as we move forward. Tom always listened and was sincerely interested in knowing the stories of employees and customers. He wanted to hear their thoughts, ideas and hopes for them, their families and the company. He credited the company’s success to the people who worked for us. He could relate to all employees but had a soft spot for those on the frontline at stores. In many respects, he was an ordinary person who built an extraordinary business alongside his wife Judy and his family, who he loved deeply.”

“We are deeply saddened by the passing of our beloved husband, father and grandfather,” said the Love Family. “He loved people, and that was evident in how he guided our family, operated the business he started in 1964 and gave back to our community and organizations across the country that serve others. He was always committed to helping others succeed and opening the door for leaders, including his children and grandchildren, and we look forward to building upon his legacy. While the grief we feel is unmeasurable, we celebrate his life and will continue his legacy of living a life filled with integrity, honesty and faith.”

The company “remains family-owned and operated,” according to the news release.

Earlier this year, Love’s announced plans to open 25 travel stops, 15 Love’s Truck Care and Speedco locations, and 30 new restaurants in 2023 as part of a strategic growth plan. The company also plans to begin renovations on existing truck stop locations in 2023.

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