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JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Industry insiders know it to be true, and now so does everyone else: convenience stores are big business.
Seven convenience store companies landed on this year's America's Largest Private Companies list published by Forbes magazine annually. Two of those companies, Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores and Pilot Flying J, cracked the Top 20 with Love's landing at No. 7.
The 2011 list of America's Largest Private Companies features 212 companies, down from 223 in 2010. Despite the drop, combined revenues this year are $1.33 trillion vs. $1.35 trillion a year ago, according to the magazine.
Oklahoma City-based Love's made a huge leap this year, from No. 18 in 2010 into the top 10 companies alongside other heavyweights such as Cargill (No. 1), Mars (No. 3), Publix Supermarkets (No. 6) and U.S. Foods (No. 10). The family-owned and -operated retailer registered $24.4 billion in revenue for 2011 and employs 8,000 people. Founded in 1964 by Tom Love, the company's 275 sites in 39 states feature gas stations, convenience stores, quick-service restaurants, shower rooms, trucking supplies and Internet.
Pilot Flying J just missed the Top 10, coming in at the No. 11 spot on the list. The Knoxville, Tenn.-based company moved up one spot from its No. 12 ranking last year. Pilot Flying J rang up $17.77 billion in revenue in 2011 and employs 19,000 people. The notable ranking comes a year and half after Pilot Travel Centers merged with Flying J. The combined company has more than 550 sites catering to everyday motorists and professional drivers.
Also taking spots on the magazine's list are QuikTrip (No. 33) with $8.77 billion in revenue and 11,973 employees; Cumberland Farms (No. 37) with an estimated $8.02 billion in revenue and 6,500 employees; Wawa (No. 47) with $6.99 billion in revenue and 18,000 employees; RaceTrac Petroleum (No. 54) with $5.75 billion in revenue and 5,100 employees; and Sheetz (No. 58) with an estimated $5.23 billion in revenue and 13,600 employees.
Five of these c-store chains also appeared on last year's Forbes list: QuikTrip was No. 37; Cumberland Farms, No. 44); Wawa, No. 50; RaceTrac, No. 63; and Sheetz, No. 79.