Love's expansion in The Village to include former Hertz reservations center
When Hertz first decided to build a new worldwide reservations center near the corner of Hefner Road and Pennsylvania Avenue in 1977, the announcement was greeted with excitement over the chance to add hundreds of jobs to the operation that opened a few years earlier at Lincoln Plaza.
The project was given a boost from the Oklahoma Industries Authority, which used its tax-free revenue bonding capacity to buy the land and pay for some of the equipment needed for the sprawling 126,000-square-foot operation.
Next door, a small, family-run operator of gas stations and truck stops, Tom Love, went about building a much smaller 10,000-square-foot office building for his company. The development made no headlines or the sort of hype that surrounded the Hertz reservation center. Love and his wife, Judy, had started their business a dozen years earlier when they leased a gas station in Watonga. By the mid-1970s, they had pioneered the idea of offering groceries and other services at their travel stops.
Hertz employed hundreds at its reservations center but vacated the complex a few years ago, leaving just a large, mostly windowless concrete bunker as a reminder of what was once the largest employer in The Village. But next door, that small gas station operator, Love’s Travel Stops, has grown to eclipse its one-time neighbor and has chosen to expand its campus with the former Hertz building.
The Village, always home for Love’s, will remain so.
“We like it out here,” Love said. “We started the business in The Village simply because we were living here. We had just gotten married. And if you look at our corporate charter, it’s at 1713 Westchester Drive.”
Love’s office remains in that original 10,000-square-foot building. But its footprint has grown to a cluster of buildings, including three it purchased from the late Aubrey McClendon at NW 63 and Hefner Parkway and leased space at Memorial and Western.
With 1,700 employed in The Village and Oklahoma City, Love is hoping to consolidate the workforce in The Village once the Hertz Building undergoes an extensive renovation. The project also will include a new event center built on the former 16-acre Hertz campus.
Spanning 126,000 square feet, the former Hertz center resembles a concrete bunker, with the southeast corner being located on a slope with a dirt berm built up along the eastern facade.
“It was a special use building,” Love said. “They had very few windows.”
FSB, the architecture firm that designed the Hertz building, was tasked with reinventing the complex for Love’s and modern office use.
“One of the main objectives is to provide a dynamic modern office environment,” said John Osborne, architect and principal with FSB. “That cave didn’t fit the bill. We’re cutting in 100 windows on the east, south and north. We’re pulling the dirt berm back to allow the light to come in from the east.”
The concrete bunker and dirt berms were intentional for the original use, with Hertz employees at the operation booking reservations for customers worldwide. Security, Osborne said, was a top concern.
“But it’s not what we would design for office space today,” he added.
The exterior, meanwhile, will get a makeover consisting of the rock and synthetic stucco mix used with the rest of the campus.
Love said he hopes to consolidate the entire workforce at the campus when the expansions are completed in two years. Over that time, he expects the corporate workforce will top 2,000. Just last week the family-owned company opened three new travel centers and expects to top 500 within the next year.
The company’s growth has extended beyond adding locations.
“We’ve extended our business a lot,” Love said. “By the end of the year, we will have more than 400 truck tire facilities. It was a natural extension of what we do. The hotel business was an idea we started thinking about and doing about three years ago, and we have about 20 hotels.”
Other additions include the acquisition of Speedco, which Love describes as “a Jiffy Lube for trucks.” Love’s also operates a CNG refueling company, Trillium.
Love’s Travel Stops can be found throughout the country, but the scarcity of any stations in Oklahoma City, Love’s hometown, is quite intentional. Only at the corner of the corporate headquarters can one gas up at a Love’s convenience store, grab some snacks or dine at Subway or Godfather’s Pizza.
But hit the highways, and the Love’s Travel Centers aren’t hard to find, usually purposely located every 60 to 80 miles. The locations are designed to make timing stops easy for truckers on tight schedules. Most of the travel plazas feature multiple restaurants and a hardware section resembling an Ace Hardware for truckers.
“Our model is we are highway stores,” Love said. “You might find us on the periphery (of Oklahoma City). Generally speaking, we’re way out there in 41 states, coast to coast. The truckers are our customers, and we’ve got to be where they want us to be.”