CHAMPAIGN — The long run of the Colonial Pantry stores in East Central Illinois has come to an end.
The seven remaining Colonial Pantry convenience stores became Village Pantry Stores as a result of their acquisition Thursday by the VPS Convenience Store Group.
Those include the Champaign store at 1201 N. Mattis Ave., as well as stores in Ogden, Oakwood, Danville, Georgetown, Paxton and Stonington.
VPS, based in Wilmington, N.C., operates 425 stores in eight states under six brands including Village Pantry, Scotchman, Lil Cricket, Young's, Next Door Stores and Everyday Shops.
VPS Chairman and CEO Jeff Turpin said the Colonial Pantry sites "align well with our brand philosophy of being convenient neighborhood stores with fast and friendly service, fresh food offerings and coffee."
Turpin said there will be no interruption in service as the stores change to Village Pantry Stores.
Company spokeswoman Jennifer Meyers said it is VPS' first foray into Illinois. She said the chain operates several Village Pantry stores in Indiana and Ohio, as well as some Next Door Stores in Michigan.
Meyers said she didn't know how soon Village Pantry signs might go up, but said gasoline brands associated with the stores are not expected to change.
All store-level employees were offered positions with Village Pantry, she added.
John P. Miller, who was president of the Colonial Pantry chain, said he and his brothers Patrick J. Miller and William H. Miller — and their wives — opened their first store in 1974. The chain at one time had as many as 13 stores in Illinois.
John Miller said the decision to sell came about when he decided it was time to retire. He said he plans to take six months to a year off from work to see whether he enjoys retirement.
Miller said he bought an insurance policy when he was 15 years old, hoping to save enough to open a grocery store someday. He ended up using the proceeds to open the first Colonial Pantry convenience store.
His best memories, he said, were working alongside his brothers, including Michael K. Miller, who worked for the chain but was not an owner.
John Miller said he continues to work with someone interested in putting a fast-food business in the former Colonial Pantry space at Prospect and Springfield avenues in Champaign, but would not comment beyond that.
VPS, with more than 3,200 employees, is a portfolio company of Sun Capital Partners, a private investment firm.
The company operates in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
It's the third acquisition in the past year for VPS. In April, VPS added Virginia Oil Co., a group of 17 convenience stores in western Virginia. In January 2011, it added 22 former APPCO stores in northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia.