Originally created 02/04/05

Local gas chain will be bought



One of the last locally owned gas station chains is being sold.

QVS Inc. and Brosious & Holt Properties LLC, which own the 19 area Pump 'N Shop gas stations, announced Thursday that the chain will be sold to Quebec-based Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc.

Financial terms of the sale were not disclosed. Under the agreement, Couche-Tard will buy 14 locations and lease five. The deal will close in March.

Couche-Tard said Pump 'N Shop will bring an additional $60 million in sales to the company.

Robert Campau, Couche-Tard's Southeastern vice president of operations, said the acquisition will give the company control over 54 percent of Augusta-Aiken's convenience store market - it already operates 30 Circle K outlets, which were formerly Smile Gas stations.

"I think this will give us the opportunity to basically leverage our position in the market," Mr. Campau said.

The Pump 'N Shops will be rebranded as Circle Ks after the deal closes, Mr. Campau said. He said there will be no immediate changes to the Pump 'N Shop chains contracts to sell Shell and Spirit brand fuels.

Pump 'N Shop was one of the last locally-owned convenience store chains in the market. Augusta's Smile Gas and Aiken's Depot Food Stores were both bought by national chains in 1999. Koger-Walters Oil Co. still owns about 11 BP stations and nine Crown Fast Fare stations in the market.

Pump 'N Shop owners Alan Brosious and Jimmy Holt declined to make any statements other than those contained in a news release issued Thursday.

"The hardest part about this decision is having to say goodbye to hard-working, loyal and faithful employees," the statement said.

The partners hinted in a 2003 profile in The Augusta Chronicle that they might not be in the convenience store business much longer.

"We're on the back nine of our growth plan," Mr. Holt said at the time.

The Pump 'N Shop chain employs about 200. Mr. Campau said all store-level workers and some administrative staff will be offered jobs under the new ownership. No stores will be closed.

"Where the locations are in close proximity, there are sepa-rate traffic patterns," Mr. Campau said.

Couche-Tard is the fourth largest convenience store operator in the United States and the third largest retailer in Canada with nearly more than 4,800 locations in both countries.

"It's conceivable that you can come up to a corner somewhere, and they'll have shops on two corners," said Tom Kloza, an analyst with the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J.

Mr. Kloza said Couche-Tard makes its profit by relying more on convenience stores sales and less on gasoline profits, which are much thinner.

The manner in which it runs its stores has made the company one of the most respected names in the industry in recent years, said Jeff Lenard, the spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores.

"They have really made themselves a presence in the industry to a much greater extent than they were just a few years ago," Mr. Lenard said.

The company drew industry attention with several acquisitions in the Great Lakes area. But it turned heads in 2003 with the $821 million purchase of 1,633 Circle K stores from ConocoPhillips. Phillips Petroleum Corp. had bought the Circle K chain from Connecticut-based Tosco Corp. in 2001.

Included in that sale were the 67 Smile Gas stations Tosco bought from Augusta's Boardman Petroleum Inc. in 1999.

Reach James Gallagher at (706) 823-3227.

Timeline

1978: Alan Brosious buys Nite n' Day Food Store in Hephzibah.

1979: Mr. Brosious buys S&S convenience store at the corner of Baston and Old Petersburg roads, renaming it Nite n' Day 2.

1982: Jimmy Holt joins Mr. Brosius. They join with two other partners and run four stores in Aiken under the Pump 'N Shop name.

1985: The two men managed 16 Pump 'N Shops on both sides of the border. The silent partners sell out, and the two were left with four Pump 'N Shops in Augusta.

1986 to 2004: Mr. Holt and Mr. Brosius open 15 more Pump 'N Shops.

2005: Pump 'N Shop is sold to Alimentation Couche-Tard.

Source: The Augusta Chronicle archives