VPS picks up 22 Appco stores; rebranding to begin immediately

CSP Daily News

WILMINTON, NC Allowing it to expand into two new states––Tennessee and Virginia––VPS Convenience Store Group, an affiliate of Sun Capital Partners Inc., has acquired 22 former Appalachian Oil (Appco) c–stores in the Tri–Cities (Bristol, Johnson City and Kingsport) metropolitan area of northeastern Tennessee and southwestern Virginia.

Appco, Blountville, Tenn., operated 47 c–stores in Tennessee and Kentucky before filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization on February 9, 2009. Independence, Kansas–based Sunshine Energy LLC acquired most of the stores in September 2009. Sunshine Energy then filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy itself in June 2010, days after major landlord Management Properties Inc. began repossessing some of its properties it owns as part of a dispute over store maintenance and supply. The stores have been closed for six months.
Click here for previous CSP Daily News coverage of Appco and its bankruptcy filing. And click here for coverage of the Sunshine Energy bankruptcy filing.

“There were 47 Appco locations––some of them continue to be operated by Sunshine Energy. The stores that were owned by Management Properties Inc.––those are the stores that we acquired,” VPS chairman and CEO Jeff Turpin told CSP Daily News. He would not disclose the deal’s price tag.

As reported yesterday in a Morgan Keegan/CSP Daily News Flash, the stores, which have been closed for the past six months, will be reopened as Scotchman Convenience Stores over the next several weeks.

“The reimaging will take place over the next three to six weeks,” said Turpin. “As quick as we can get the materials in. The stores were basically stripped of all equipment, so we need to re–equip the stores. We hope to open the first store this week.”

In a statement, Turpin said, “We are very excited to bring the Scotchman Store brand to the Tri–Cities region. The additional Appco locations will increase the total VPS store count to more than 400 convenience stores with operations in seven states, and we look forward to continued growth in the Tennessee and Virginia markets. Consistent with our other acquisitions, we plan to reimage and upgrade all of these stores so that we can better serve our new customers.”

Wilmington, N.C.–based VPS has already begun to make facility improvements and develop strong relationships with local vendors to provide the most desirable products and services for customers, he added. In addition to fuel, plans for the stores include providing a broad selection of grocery, deli and bakery items as well as other value–added services.

“This area has been named one of the best local areas for business by Forbes, so we know our stores will be welcomed by the people here and we’ll be successful,” said Turpin. “We are happy to expand our operations into Tennessee and Virginia as we continue to look for new growth areas.”

He said that the company has several new deals in the works, although he declined to offer details.

VPS now operates 402 convenience stores throughout the Southeast and Midwest under the names Scotchman, Village Pantry, Li’l Cricket, Young’s and Next Door Stores, selling premium fuel brands such as BP, Exxon, Shell, Valero, Marathon and its own proprietary brand, Carolina Petro. Southeast stores include the Li’l Cricket, Young’s and Scotchman brands formerly held by Worsley Operating Corp. The Midwest division includes Village Pantry and Next Door Store locations in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. VPS Convenience Store Group also operates two truck stop travel plazas and offers fleet fueling services.

Sun Capital Partners Inc. remains an investor in VPS. It previously held both Worsley Operating Corp. and Village Pantries Holding Corp. Sun acquired Village Pantry as part of its purchase of Marsh Supermarkets in 2006. Worsley Inc. was purchased by Sun in 2008. Village Pantry originally was founded as the c–store division of Marsh Supermarkets in Indianapolis. In June 2007, the Village Pantry convenience stores were split into a separate company in the Sun portfolio. In 2009, VPS Convenience Store Group was created and now encompasses Worsley Operating Corp. and Village Pantry Holding Corp.

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