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    DB Mart Stores Garnering Interest

    Former Dairy Mart president among potential suitors.

    SPRINGFIELD, Mass -- The former president of the defunct Dairy Mart chain of convenience stores won't rule out an interest in buying some of the 148 DB Mart stores being auctioned off in August, reported the Springfield, Mass.-based The Republican.

    DB Mart stores are scheduled for auction in late August as part of the bankruptcy of DB Cos., the Pawtucket, R.I., chain that bought Dairy Mart's New England stores in 1997.

    Frank Colaccino, who runs Colvest Group, a commercial real estate investment company in Windsor, Conn., said, "I don't know," when asked if he'd have an interest in any of the sites. "Right now, I'm always looking," he added.

    DB Cos. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization on June 2, citing less than $100 million in assets and $65 million in liabilities. To ease the sale, the company is seeking to cancel its agreements with franchisees who operate 77 of the company's 148 stores in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New York. The franchisees are fighting the move.

    In 2001, Dairy Mart declared bankruptcy and sold about half of its remaining stores to Canadian convenience store operator Alimentation Couche-Tard.

    Richard A. Meyer, a consultant to the convenience store and gas station industry, said Friday that the Dairy Mart sites purchased by DB Mart "didn't have a reputation for being Cadillac sites."

    Colaccino observed that one of the challenges for convenience store operators is "if people haven't continued to update their facilities and increase the volume and differentiate the offerings, they just aren't successful." DB Mart was "one of those companies that, when they bought, they took on a lot of debt in expanding their stores, and they still had a lot of stores that were old stores that just couldn't compete," Colaccino said.

    On the other hand, Meyer noted, "the DB Mart people had a good reputation so you felt at the time, provided they had paid the right value, that (the stores) would certainly be better than previously operated." Smaller convenience and gas station operators also have been squeezed by narrowing margins due to competition from big retailers like Wal-Mart and big supermarket chains opening their own gas stations, Meyer said.

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