A massive amount of groundwork is in the rearview mirror and the main building is now a structure, as construction progresses on what will be a major economic development tool for Neosho.

“We hope to be open by this winter, early to mid-winter, so coming right up because we’re heading into October here and it will be winter soon,” said Kealy Dorian, media specialist for Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores.

She said they hope to open their new Neosho store, on Missouri Highway 86 adjacent to Interstate 49, by the end of the year, but it may not be until early 2015.

Dorian reported this week that framing for the future 12,000-square-feet facility is just about complete.

“Most of the utilities have also been installed at this point, all of our fuel tanks are in place, so from here we need to finish up the framing and then we’ll go inside and start on inside work,” she said. “Also, we will need to start working on the tire shop.”

Dorian said the 24-acre complex will include a second building, a Love’s Truck Tire Center.

“As the name suggests, it’s a truck tire care center for professional drivers,” she said. “If they have a flat or they need a new tire, they can stop in there, we can fix them up. We carry several brands of tires that we can outfit them with, and we will also offer some basic light mechanical services, but that is for professional drivers, we do not offer anything at this time for leisure travelers, people like you and I.”

The structural skeleton for the future tire center facility is now standing.

Dorian said no problems have been encountered, even with the preliminary work prior to the beginning of construction.

“This has been a really great location, we’ve had really good community participation in getting things off the ground, and the construction has been moving along pretty well,” she said.
Dorian maintained the main store will offer just about anything you would ever need while traveling across the country or if you need to pick something up on your way to work.

“We will have gourmet coffee,” she said. “There’s an expanded drink fountain in there. You can find snacks, you can find healthy snacks, fresh cut fruit. Gift merchandise, if we make it (opening) before Christmas, it’ll be a prime stop for drivers or people just traveling through to stop in and, ‘Oh hey, I’ll pick up this plush toy for my grandson,’ or, ‘Oops, I forgot something on the way to Grandma’s house, for cousin Billy I’ll pick this up.’ We have a wide array of gift selections that we have year-round, and then we’ll be set up throughout the holiday season. So there’s a little bit of everything in there.”

Dorian said Love’s Country Stores and Travel Stops provide various items needed by the professional driver, including tire mud flaps, electronics such as CB radios and GPS units, and both a McDonald’s and a Subway restaurant will be contained within.

“So a little bit of everything in 12,000-square-feet,” she said.

Just outside will be 16 fuel pumps for motorists, and seven dispensing points for diesel.

“As far as the number of truck parking spaces for professional drivers, that is 74,” Dorian said. “There will be seven showers on the inside of the facility as well, where drivers can come in if they are driving across the road from California to Florida or whatever, they can stop in, get a hot shower, and eat.

“It’s going to be a really great place, not only for professional drivers but for motorists. As you know, it’s a newly designated interstate, so that brings some extra traffic to it that way.”
Dorian said Love’s has a travel stop not too far to the north, in Joplin at I-44, but they do not have another facility to the south until I-40.

“So that’s filling a substantial gap for some of Love’s network,” she said.

A soft opening will accompany the first days in business for Love’s in Neosho, and Dorian promised a grand opening celebration will soon follow within a couple of weeks.

“We will do a ribbon cutting and invite the community to come out and celebrate,” she said. “And at that point, it’s customary for Love’s to give a $2,000 donation to a local school or to a non-profit. We’re too far out yet so we haven’t selected who that group will be.”

Dorian noted Love’s has partnered with Children’s Miracle Network for the past 15 years, and all the money raised at the local store during their annual campaign will benefit the local CMN.

“One of the really neat things about Love’s is we take pride in giving back to the community, we don’t just want to build a building and then leave, we want to build a building and then build a business and help build that community and make a great place an even better place, so we really believe in giving back to the community, and we believe this donation is the first step in us doing that and strengthening ties and creating a relationship,” she said.

Based in Oklahoma City where the first Love’s was created 50 years ago, Dorian said this is a big year for the company, which expected to open 30 new stores in 2014. She said the chain’s 317th store opened earlier this year.

Mike Franks, executive director, Neosho Area Business & Industrial Foundation, Inc. (NABIFI), noted in an earlier interview that interior sales in the Neosho Love’s will be several million dollars.
“So those interior sales generate sales tax,” he said.

Franks said other businesses routinely locate around a Love’s Travel Stop & Country Store, and local economic development officials will be busy recruiting.

“We’ll be talking to people who want to locate here to be a support vehicle to that Love’s,” Franks said. “There will absolutely be spin off from the Love’s for Neosho in this area.”