Updated: Super Pantry chain sold
CHAMPAIGN — The number of CIrcle K convenience stores in Champaign-Urbana could jump from 13 to 21, if all stores remain open after the acquisition of the Super Pantry chain by Circle K's owner.
Champaign-based Tri Star Marketing has agreed to sell the Super Pantry chain to Alimentation Couche-Tard, one of the world's largest operators of convenience stores, the Quebec-based company announced Tuesday.
Super Pantry, which has 55 stores in Illinois and Indiana, is owned and operated by Tri Star, a third-generation family business with headquarters at 2211 W. Bradley Ave., C.
Following the acquisition, all the stores will be operated under the Circle K brand by Couche-Tard's Midwest Division.
Jon Stewart, the president and CEO of Tri Star Marketing, called the proposed sale "a true win for both consumers and shareholders of both organizations" in a release issued by Couche-Tard.
"I am personally excited about this transaction. The addition of Super Pantry to Couche-Tard's network of convenience stores will complement its leadership position under the Circle K brand," Stewart said.
Attempts to reach Stewart for further comment on the sale — including its effect on employees at the Champaign headquarters — were not immediately successful.
Tri Star Marketing, which today employs more than 500, began as the Russell Stewart Oil Co. in 1947. Stewart began selling fuel to rural and commercial customers, and as the business grew, he added retail gasoline stations.
The stations were affiliated with brands such as Texaco, Phillips 66 and eventually Gulf, but when Gulf withdrew from branded marketing in Illinois, Russell and his son Dean sold gasoline as an independent. In 1989, the corporation changed its name to Tri Star Marketing and has since entered into franchise agreements with Conoco Phillips and Exxon Mobil.
Dean Stewart retired in 2009 and died Feb. 9 of this year. Jon Stewart, the president and CEO, is Dean's son and Russell's grandson.
The purchase price for the acquisition has not been disclosed yet, Couche-Tard said, citing a confidentiality agreement. The transaction is expected to close before Oct. 12, the end of the second quarter of Couche-Tard's fiscal year.
The Super Pantry chain includes 51 stores in Illinois and four in Indiana. Area stores include six in Champaign, two each in Urbana, Rantoul, Danville, Mahomet and Monticello and one each in Savoy, Clinton and Villa Grove.
Circle K operates eight stores in Champaign, five stores in Urbana and one in Rantoul.
The closest overlaps in Champaign-Urbana are at Lincoln Avenue and Green Street in Urbana, where Super Pantry and Circle K are across the street from each other; and on North Prospect Avenue in Champaign, where a Super Pantry and Circle K are four blocks apart.
But there's no certainty Couche-Tard will move to shut down one or the other if both are doing well. For several years, there have been two Circle K's on North Lincoln Avenue in Urbana, only five blocks apart.
Once Super Pantry becomes part of Couche Tard's Circle K Midwest Division, that division will have 600 company-operated stores and 193 locations under wholesale or franchise agreements.
Couche-Tard said it plans to keep the existing fuel brands at Super Pantry locations. In addition to buying 54 store properties and leasing a 55th, the company plans to acquire three bulk plant facilities from Tri Star Marketing.
Based in Laval, Quebec, Couche-Tard has 6,241 convenience stores in North America. It is the convenience store leader in Canada, and in the United States, it is the largest independent convenience store operator in terms of number of company-operated stores.
In Europe, the company is a major player in convenience stores in Norway, Sweden and Denmark and has a growing presence in Poland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.
It also licenses the Circle K brand in 12 other countries around the world, for an overall total of 13,100 sites around the world.
How some popular items stacked up in price Wednesday at the Mobil Super Pantry, 810 W. Green St., U, and the Marathon Circle K, just across the street at 809 W. Green St., U:
|Item||Super Pantry||Circle K|
|Gallon of unleaded gas||$3.559||$3.559|
|Case of Budweiser||$16.99||$16.99|
|12 oz. premium coffee||$1.19||99 cents|
|24 oz. premium coffee||$1.79||$1.59|
|24 oz. fountain soft drink||99 cents||79 cents|
|64 oz. fountain soft drink||$1.49||79 cents|