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    Eby-Brown Focuses on Growth, Long-Term Strategies

    New markets, foodservice focus are part of its plans.

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News
    Dick (left) and Tom Wake are co-presidents and co-owners of Eby-Brown Co. LLC.

    NAPERVILLE, Ill. — Eby-Brown Co. LLC is taking steps to expand its reach into states east with its pending acquisition of Liberty USA. It's a deal that will bring together two family businesses.

    West Mifflin, Pa.-based Liberty is the largest independently owned convenience store supplier in Pennsylvania, servicing more than 1,000 customers. It was founded by Francis "Red" McGuirk and his wife Patricia in 1959.

    Naperville-based Eby-Brown is the largest family-owned wholesale consumer products distributor in the convenience store industry. It was founded more than 125 years ago.

    "We've known and admired the McGuirk family for years. We admired the fact that they have a strong company. They built up a multi-generational family business and we felt it was the appropriate time to merge the two family businesses into one to provide the best possible future for our customers and their employees," Thomas Wake, co-president and co-owner of Eby-Brown, told CSNews Online.

    That future now includes new markets — New York, Maryland and Delaware — and new customers in Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio, all which will be serviced by Liberty's base, just outside of Pittsburgh.

    "Liberty's service area is contiguous with our service area, so we are kind of in each other's backyards. Their distribution center gives us better efficiencies in serving our customers from both facilities that are contiguous," he said. 

    Moving forward with the unification, Eby-Brown plans to initially keep the businesses operating as usual. 

    "We don't want to change anything for the employees, and we certainly don't want to change the experience for our new customers either," Dick Wake, co-president and co-owner of Eby-Brown, told CSNews. "We are not going to do anything for a while, until we do more analysis and research to figure out exactly how Liberty does everything in its relationships with its employees and its relationships with its customers."

    Eby-Brown estimates that it will begin the operational integration in six months to a year from now.

    "We'll go through integration when we know what new things we have to do, or perhaps what things we have to create system-wise to mirror what they are currently doing, so our employees and customers don't experience any change when the actual transition does occur," Dick Wake added.

    Once the transaction closes, Gary McGuirk Jr. will remain the general manager of Liberty, which will operate as Liberty USA, a division of Eby-Brown.

    "We feel Liberty USA will fit right into the Eby-Brown culture. This combination of two great family businesses will yield excellent results for our customers, team members and trading partners," McGuirk said.

    Opening Up to New Markets

    Eby-Brown previously had a distribution center in Baltimore; however, the company closed that facility several years ago. Currently, the wholesaler maintains distribution centers in Eau Claire, Wis.; Montgomery, Ill.; Ypsilanti, Mich.; Springfield, Ohio; Plainfield, Ind.; and Rockmart, Ga.

    Today, Eby-Brown reaches the greater Pittsburgh market out of its Ohio facility, but it's a four-hour stretch. The Liberty acquisition will change that.

    In addition to opening up new markets, and hence new customers, the deal is expected to spread Eby-Brown's reach across all-sized retailers.

    "We're unique in that we can take care of the national convenience retailers and provide them with the services they need, and [we] have customized solutions for the mid-sized and large chains also. We also have a very special focus on the independents," explained Thomas Wake.

    Liberty's focus historically has been, based on the company's size and geographical limitations, on the mid-size to smaller chains and the independents.

    "They've done a tremendous job with those accounts. We're excited about having them join our family of customers," he said. "But we are certainly open to all sizes and variety of styles of retailers."

    By Melissa Kress, Convenience Store News
    • About Melissa Kress Melissa Kress joined EnsembleIQ's Convenience Store News in November 2010. Her primary beats include alcoholic beverages and tobacco. Kress has been a professional journalist since 1995. A graduate of West Virginia University, she began her career in community journalism before moving to business-to-business publishing in 2000, covering commercial real estate.

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