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The facility that Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores Inc. proposes at Falkville would be similar to this one the company opened four months ago on Interstate 65 at Columbia, Tenn.
Courtesy photo
The facility that Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores Inc. proposes at Falkville would be similar to this one the company opened four months ago on Interstate 65 at Columbia, Tenn.

Love's Travel
loves Falkville?

Oklahoma City-based company considers building facility off I-65

By Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com 340-2438

FALKVILLE — If everything falls into place, family-owned Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores Inc. of Oklahoma City could have a facility here off Interstate 65 by the first quarter of 2008.

Bill Gleason, a real estate project manager for Love's, told the Falkville Town Council during a work session Tuesday that the company has a 14-acre tract under contract. The land, owned by Howard and Gloria Singleton, is adjacent to Douglas Road and Morgan County 55 East, across Morgan County 55 from Falkville Chevron.

Gleason wouldn't give the cost of the land, but said Love's is proposing to invest between $5 million and $7 million in the travel stop.

"Oh, we're tickled to death," said Mayor Jimmie Walker. "This is the kind of interstate development that the town has been looking for."

Gleason will return Tuesday to discuss the proposal with the Falkville Planning Commission. Walker said that at that time, the commission will consider zoning the property commercial.

The commission would then set a public hearing before the matter goes before the Town Council, which also would set a public hearing.

"It isn't a done deal, but we're working toward it," Gleason said. "The property has been surveyed, but we lack core samplings. We've got to make sure the soil is suitable and determine if we need to add aggregate or lime. But we don't want to reach mush six feet down."

Walker said the property has been used only as farmland.

Gleason said the Love's at Falkville would follow the design of one that opened four months ago in Columbia, Tenn., probably featuring a McDonald's and a Subway. He said Love's is the second-largest Subway restaurant franchisee in the country.

Gleason projects employment of 80 people and up to eight salaried management personnel. He said the company pays health insurance for all full-time employees.

Based on average sales, he said, Falkville could expect $48,000 annually from gasoline sales, $96,000 from diesel sales and $144,000 from store merchandise and the restaurants, for projected annual tax revenue of $288,000.

Gleason said the facility would have eight gas pumps for passenger vehicles and seven to eight pumps for tractor-trailer rigs. Also, there would be parking for at least 74 trucks, he said.

Gleason, one of three Love's project managers covering the U.S., said he had looked at interstate sites between Nashville and Birmingham, and between Montgomery and Mobile for the past two years.

"We start construction in 30 days in Clanton with a project opening for August," he said. "That store will feature an Arby's. The location in Columbia also will have an Arby's. We go for variety when we can."

Love's other Alabama store is in Loxley, near Mobile.

He said the corporate office likes to separate stores by at least 200 miles and that Falkville could be a hard sell because of the stores in Columbia and Clanton. But the mayor and council members hope that their enthusiasm will overshadow any negatives.

'Early in the process'

Jenny Love-Meyer, the company's public relations director, said Tuesday from Dallas that "it's early in the process, but we've been looking at the Huntsville-Decatur area for awhile. We've moving forward with regards to a development in that general area."

Love-Meyer, whose father founded the business in 1964, said the company has 195 locations in 31 states.

"We opened 18 locations in 2006, and this year we're looking at 15. We've now got probably 40 locations ... in various stages of development," she said. "The pace of development is fast and we're really excited."

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