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    New Owners Approved for AmeriStop Stores

    Village Pantry, Road Ranger and others acquire locations from the 100-plus unit chain.

    COLD SPRING, Ky. -- A bankruptcy court judge has approved the $56.3 million sale of 111 AmeriStop c-stores to various parties. The sites were sold by Cold Spring, Ky.-based Petro Acquisitions after a two-day auction, the Business Courier of Cincinnati stated.

    As first reported by a CSNews Online Newsflash yesterday, Village Pantry Inc., operator of 179 c-stores, acquired nine of the AmeriStop-branded sites in central Ohio. The stores, which average 2,700 square feet, will be rebranded to the Village Pantry banner.

    The nine stores offer convenience items, lottery tickets, money orders, prepaid cards and branded fuel, according to the company. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

    "We are delighted to add this important Ohio market to our growing Midwest footprint," Mick Parker, president and CEO of Village Pantry, said in a statement. "We expect to take advantage of the economies of scale offered by this transaction and be better positioned to enhance the value proposition for our loyal customers as we continue to introduce new merchandising concepts."

    The AmeriStop acquisition builds upon the chain's recent growth. In October 2007, Village Pantry acquired Imperial Co. Inc., operator of 33 Next Door Stores in Michigan and northern Indiana. For more details on Village Pantry's growth plans, see the special online feature at CSNews Online's homepage -- www.csnews.com.

    Road Ranger LLC, operator of more than 60 c-stores and travel plazas, also closed on its purchase of 11 AmeriStop stores located in Kentucky and Ohio, according to NRC Realty Advisors, which served as Road Ranger's financial adviser.

    "Road Ranger is excited about its acquisition of these former AmeriStop sites, and is looking forward to expanding rapidly in the near future through the strategic acquisition of groups of stores and companies that fit Road Ranger’s criteria," company founder and president Dan Arnold said in a statement.

    Other purchasers of the AmeriStop stores include Village Variety Store Operations LLC and DBT Investment Corp., according to the Courier report.

    Meanwhile, 59 AmeriStop franchisees tried to cement their future when they generated nearly $7 million for the auction to keep control of their stores, which were part of the asset sale, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported. The franchisees competed and ultimately won against Hyde Park, Ky.-based Gilligan Oil Co., which offered a higher $7.1 million for the stores, according to the report, which cited the lawyer for the franchisees, Marcia Andrew of law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister.

    "They really pulled together as a team to get this done," Andrew told the paper.

    Lance Little, owner of several franchises in northern Kentucky, said the other franchisees are planning to form a limited liability company in hopes of continuing the AmeriStop name. "I think we're pretty relieved that this is almost over, and we're going to have our independence," Little told the Enquirer.

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