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    Couche-Tard Rebrands Midwest Stores to Circle K

    Process should take approximately two years.

    GRAND COUNTY, Ind. -- Alimentation Couche-Tard is putting its own brand on the 16 Handy Andy stores and 484 other company-owned stores in five states to Circle K, until now a largely Southern-based chain, reported the Grand County, Ind. Chronicle-Tribune.

    "The process will take almost two years," said Mark Kesmodel, Indiana-based director of operations for Mac's Convenience Stores, the Couche-Tard subsidiary that manages the Handy Andy stores. "We will still market to local needs."

    Couche-Tard now has more than 4,880 stores and is the fourth-largest convenience store operator in North America.

    The company officially took over the Handy Andy stores in June 2002, paying $15 million. It also bought the Dairy Mart convenience store chain, based in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Kentucky, for $79.5 million.

    Then, last December, Couche-Tard bought Circle K Corp. from ConocoPhillips Co. for $803.8 million. The acquisition added 1,663 corporate stores in 16 states, largely in the South, and there are still plans to expand.

    Alain Bouchard, Couche-Tard's president and CEO, said plans are under way to convert all of its Midwest stores to Circle K, representing a shift in strategy. Couche-Tard had started changing some Handy Andy, Dairy Mart and other brand stores to the Mac's name, but new marketing research forced a change in direction earlier this year.

    "What we found was that the Circle K brand had better recognition," said Michel Bernard, vice president of operations in the Midwest.

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