Lubbock, Texas: What goes into a new Love's, the teams behind it
Loves.com blogger Kyla Turner gives a firsthand account
I was the only thing standing still in a torrent of activity.
You could say the same on almost any day in any busy Love's location, but this moment was different. Team members were crawling the aisles stocking and facing candy, chips and beef jerky. Trash bags at their feet and hanging off newly installed shelves caught a blizzard of packaging and plastic wrap.
Larry Nelson was piecing together the puzzle of displaying new Christmas merchandise in September, scratching his head over how to properly showcase every new toy with every price tag showing.
Mike Schmitt quickly yet flawlessly added restroom labels to the doors.
DAS partners were everywhere with cardboard boxes galore setting the final products. Air conditioning was adjusted, brooms were out, and the roller grills were slowly rolling. Chicken was frying at Chester's and bread was baking at Subway, grass was growing outside, and fences were going up faster than you could count the posts.
It was 9 a.m. At 9:02, the whole scene had changed and everyone was off in a different direction.
Welcome to the day before opening at Love's 589 in Lubbock, Texas.
"Oh this is nothing," said Mike Schmitt, district merchandising manager, "this is smooth. We're almost ready."
He should know. He's been through about 150 store openings over 11 years.
"This will be a good one and the team will get it," he said.
The team seems thrilled to be here. The newest employees are from the area, but some have never been in a Love's before. Some come from a c-store background and are eager for a new opportunity.
"I love this place already, and I can't wait to open," said Natasha Lopez, flashing an easy smile through training. She was with an independent c-store in Lubbock for years and looks forward to her regular Customers visiting her at Love's now.
Shift lead Rebecca Burcham was beaming as well. She's been with Love's for four and a half years in Palestine, Arkansas, hoping one day to land in Lubbock with her daughter who came to attend Texas Tech University and never left.
"Everything fell into place," she said. "I'm here just in time to see my first grandchild arrive. "
Rebecca said the most surprising part of opening a new Love's is watching the inside come together in just a few days. Jim Xenos, director of construction, who's been with Love's for 17 years, most recently in the construction group, mirrors her thoughts.
"This is the first of many construction projects I'll get to see from the beginning to the end," he said. "I've been working on this one for so long, and it really does all come together in the final days."
New stores also bring out the VIPs. Terry Ross, vice president of construction and a 39-year Love's employee, was on-hand to make sure all was in place. Tom Love himself stopped by to welcome the new team, although I'm sad to say I missed him as I took a quick trip offsite for supplies (he's notoriously hard to catch; often running circles around the rest of us, all with boundless enthusiasm!).
By the end of the day as the sun started to make long shadows across the endless West Texas plains, an optimistic calm fell over the location. I took a minute to walk across the expansive truck parking lot, knowing it would never be empty like this again. (Confession: I may or may not have spun around in it, arms outstretched, Sound of Music-style, singing "The hills are alive…" then laughing out loud because there are no hills even remotely close to Lubbock, Texas.)
Back inside, I found the GM, Chris Crowley, a five-year employee and Lubbock-area native who moved back from running the Love's in Prescott, Arkansas, in a rare quiet moment looking at printouts in the restaurant area. I asked him if he was feeling good about everything.
"Everybody's leaving at 5 p.m.," he said. "And nobody's stressing out, so this is what I was hoping for."