Love’s founder passes at 85

Tom Love, who, along with his wife and business partner, Judy, founded Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores, passed away at 85 in his hometown of Oklahoma City on Tuesday.

A respected community and business leader, Love was admired for his genuine humility, good-natured disposition, generosity and helpfulness toward others. 

“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.” 

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 fuel 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. 

Under Tom’s leadership, Love’s opened its first travel stop on Interstate 40 in Amarillo, Texas, in 1981, catering to professional truck drivers and the motoring public who sought convenience and efficiency when traveling across the country. Throughout the decades, Love’s has expanded its services to include hot and fresh food items, truck maintenance and warm showers. 

The company has flourished under Tom and his family’s leadership — opening its 600th location in October 2022. The Love’s Family of Companies has grown to include businesses focused on truck maintenance, logistics, commodity supply and alternative energies.