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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores, operator of 147 travel centers and convenience stores in 17 states, said it has begun construction of a travel center in Williamsville, Ill. It is the first store in Illinois for Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and it will include its first joint operation with McDonald's Corp, the largest fast-food company in the world.

The travel center company also plans to seek a liquor license for convenience store beer sales, which would be the first commercial license issued in Williamsville since village voters overturned a 60-year-old ban on liquor sales in the April 2001 election.

"The high volume of traffic on I-55 is a major factor in the good potential of this site," company president Greg Love said.

The 7,900-square-foot facility just southwest of the I-55 exchange will include fuel, a convenience store gift shop, travel amenities and the McDonald's restaurant. The facility will employ 40 to 45 full-time and part-time workers when completed next March.

Though this is the first venture with McDonald's, the company has joint operating agreements with a variety of fast-food outlets at its other locations, including Arby's, Hardee's, Taco Bell, A&W, Baskin Robbins, Carl's Jr. and Subway. Company spokeswoman Jenny Love Meyer said the chain typically targets busy interstate locations. "We travel the country looking at various highways and where it makes sense for us to be," she said.

Love Meyer said the convenience stores include beer sales, though the company has not yet filed an application for a Williamsville liquor license. "I would anticipate that we would be filing," she said.

Two local businesses that applied for licenses earlier this year were rejected because the owners did not live within the village limits. Officials at Williamsville village hall said the same technicality would not apply to corporations such as Love's, according to the Grand Island (Ill.) Independent.

The convenience and travel store would be a 24-hour operation. Either a local franchisee or McDonald's corporation will operate the restaurant, which will include drive-up facilities and in-store seating for 60.

Donation Made
In other news, Love's said it is giving back to the communities it operates in with a donation to benefit sick children. The company raised $155,250 for the Children's Miracle Network (CMN) through in-store fundraisers during the month of September. The donation is an 88-percent increase from last year.

CMN supports children's hospitals throughout the country. Love's has been a sponsor of the charity for the past four years. "I am proud of our store teams and appreciative of our customers -- through their hard work and generosity children's hospitals across the United States will benefit," Greg Love said.