Rick and Tonya Lovell’s Flying K Gas Station in Toledo may look like an ordinary gas station from the outside, but on the inside, it’s packed to the rafters with everything from fishing supplies and automotive tools to groceries, plumbing supplies and horse feed.
“We’ve probably got one of the biggest nut and bolt selections in Lewis County,” Rick Lovell said. “You’ve got to look all the way to the ceiling to find stuff.”
The couple bought the store 21 years ago, when it was just a NAPA store and gas station.
Since then, they’ve diversified, adding more businesses with a variety of offerings.
About five years after buying the gas station, they added Toledo Towing.
“Everyone kept asking us, ‘Can you bring in pop and beer?’” Rick Lovell said.
Lovell bought some refrigerator cases, knocked down a wall and added drinks and other grocery items to create Riverview Food Mart and Sporting Goods.
Most recently, they added Toledo Hardware and Feed. All of the businesses are under the umbrella of Lovell Inc. Each time the Lovells have added a business, they’ve expanded in their building at 130 Cowlitz St. in Toledo.
Today, business is booming, but the Lovells recently considered abandoning their family shop.
In 2014, the Lovells’ longtime employee Katrina Bowen pleaded guilty to first-degree theft, acknowledging that she stole roughly 500 lottery tickets per shift over a period of about nine months from the Flying K Gas Station.
She was originally sentenced to four years in prison, but after an appeal, her sentence was reduced in October to 24 months. She had already served 20 months.
Bowen was ordered in 2014 to pay $137,000 in restitution to the Lovells. At her resentencing in September, Rick Lovell said the business was still in the red, struggling to pay back taxes and debts to creditors, and said he and Tonya had considered selling the business.
“Clear up to a year ago in December, we didn’t know if we were going to make it,” Rick Lovell told The Chronicle Monday.
However, the tide started turning for the business last summer when the Lovells added the hardware and feed business.
Rick Lovell said he learned Brosey’s Ace Hardware in Winlock was selling and worked out a deal with owner Bob Brosey to get the store’s stock and move it to Toledo.
Lovell said Brosey gave him a screaming deal on the store’s contents.
“He made us a deal (for) pennies on the dollar,” Lovell said.
Rick and Tonya Lovell cleared up the back area of their building, long used for storage, and added the hardware and feed sections.
“We are back up and going. We feel like we can make it now,” Rick Lovell said. “Pretty much everything Kat took from us we gained back.”
Both thanked the community for supporting them through hard times.
“They really stuck with us,” Tonya Lovell said.
After a year to get the hang of running a hardware store, Rick Lovell said he’d expand to sell products such as lumber, if he only had the room.
“I don’t have any place to put it,” he said.