Cutting the ribbon Friday, Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store general manager Stan Sanders is joined by state, county and city elected officials, along with employees and families, to celebrate the opening of the new store at the intersection of NM Highway 18 and NM 176 in Eunice. The new facility has been almost a decade in the making, starting with Lea County’s purchase of the land in 2010 for economic development and sale to Love’s in 2016. Groundbreaking occurred in November 2018.
EUNICE — Local, county and state officials joined Love’s Travel Stop and Country Store general manager Stan Sanders for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday at the intersection of N.M. Highways 18 and 176.
Open 24/7/365, Sanders said, the new store employs 70 people, all from Eunice and Hobbs.
“We have a tier 3 store. It’s kind of small, but we offer it all,” Sanders told the News-Sun. “We’re ready to rock and roll with the business, and we’re in the perfect location.”
Lea County purchased about 27 acres of the southeast corner of the intersection of two state highways from the State Land Office in September 2010 with the intention of using the land to promote economic development, paying $82,000 for the property.
Love’s entered an agreement with Lea County in October 2016 to purchase the land at that intersection for $100,000, contingent upon New Mexico State Board of Finance approval. The state agency approved the purchase in April 2017 and Love’s proceeded with obtaining various permits and approvals, including that of the New Mexico Department of Transportation.
The Eunice City Council, in September 2017, annexed the property into the city limits resulting in the city providing access to water and sewer services while collecting gross receipts taxes from the business.
Closure of the real estate purchase from Lea County occurred in March 2018 and a symbolic groundbreaking ceremony occurred in November 2018.
State Rep. David Gallegos, R-Eunice, welcomed Sanders to the city, then told the News-Sun, “It’s a good thing they have locals. You get buy-in from the community when you hire locals.”
He also pointed out hundreds of URENCO USA employees pass by that intersection every day, so business likely will be good.
Lea County Commissioner Don Jones, who represents Eunice for the county, also showed his pleasure at the opening of Love’s, after almost a whole decade of multiple agencies working to bring the store to Eunice.
“It’s about time. It means a lot to a small town. In any other place it would be just another gas station, but for Eunice, it’s big,” Jones said.
Eunice Mayor Billy Hobbs, who served on the city council through the process until his election to the mayor seat last year, also welcomed Sanders to the city.
“I know it’s been a long process, with the county and everybody working hard to make it happen,” Hobbs said. “We look forward to a good partnership between Love’s and the city.”
He told the crowd gathered for the ceremony, “Love’s has already been contacted by other businesses, so the development out here could just spring off from this one store. There’s no telling what could happen out here. It’s a good thing for the city.”
While presenting the symbolic key to the city to Sanders, Chamber of Commerce director Linda Dobbs agreed with Hobbs’ assessment.
“I think Eunice is going to have a bright future with Love’s coming to town. Hopefully, that will encourage more businesses to come to Eunice,” she said.
City public works director Brett Sanford grinned widely as he offered his assessment of the event.
“I love Love’s in Eunice. The great thing about it is Chester’s Chicken is attached to Love’s,” Sanford said.
Interim city manager and Senior Citizens Center director Shannon Cummins saw the practical side of the Love’s opening.
“I just think it’s a great opportunity for the city, for growth. It’s going to be a blessing and it’s going to help our GRT. It’s a good thing,” she said.
Eunice Police Chief Casey Arcidez, participating briefly in the revelry, agreed.
“It’s going to be great for the city. Of course, it will keep our department a little bit busier because it’s another place to answer calls, but I believe it will be very beneficial to the city,” he said.
In addition to the Chester’s Chicken restaurant fares, the store will offer Subway sandwiches, showers, a laundry, tire repairs, fuel, packaged food and drinks, and more.