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CHICAGO -- Today's the day.
Seekers of some of Swifty Serve's 600 shuttered stores had till noon central time to submit their closed bids to the National Real Estate Clearinghouse (NRC), the Chapter 11 trustee appointed to oversee the company's liquidation.
Speculation persists that one or two major oil companies, possibly BP plc or Amerada Hess Corp., could pry dozens of Swifty Serve's better locations in Florida, where the two behemoths possess strong bases.
Among other potential players, The Pantry Inc. is reportedly interested in 40 to 50 locations, according to sources. And Swifty's cofounders, W. Clay Hamner and Wayne Rogers, have expressed interested in plucking 200 or so locations.
Several officials familiar with Swifty's operation expect only 250 to 300 stores to reopen. Many of the locations are aged, others are burdened by environmental problems related to the fueling island.
Founded in the late 1990s, Swifty peaked at more than 600 units before selling and shuttering scores of outlets. By the time it closed operations in October and filed for bankruptcy, the chain had dwindled to less than 500 stores, with approximately 3,200 workers furloughed.
Altogether, Swifty Serve oversaw a loosely-patched, 12-state operation with stores operating under number monikers, including Country Cupboard, EZ Serve, Swifty Mart, Crown, Pepco, Dixie, TownStar and Camp. Gas brands included BP, Chevron, Citgo, Exxon and Shell.
"I spoke with a number of very serious buyers interested in purchasing 20-50 stores as well as dozens of bidders for single sites," NRC managing director Evan Gladstone recently told CSNews Online. NRC last month held in several cities to instruct prospective bidders how to manage the bidding process.