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    Workman Oil Purchase 15 Shell Food Marts

    Acquisition includes eight Subway, two Lee's Recipe Chicken and one Krystal Hamburger restaurants.

    FOREST, Va. -- Workman Oil Co., the family-owned operator of 32 Apple Market stores based here, purchased 15 Shell Food Marts from Thomas Investments of Beattyville, Ky., for an undisclosed sum.

    The acquisition includes eight Subway, two Lee's Famous Recipe Chicken and one Krystal Hamburger restaurants, in addition to a proprietary deli offering.

    The Shell Food Mart stores, all in central and eastern Kentucky, were built by the Thomas family, who founded Thomas Investments in 1981. The family has owned and operated Rogers Oil Co., a Shell jobber since 1960, and will continue to operate it for the foreseeable future.

    "The Thomas Investments stores were an excellent fit with our company," said Robert Workman Jr., CEO of Workman Oil. "The stores are high-volume and the employees are very customer-service oriented. The Thomas family has built high-quality facilities over the years. They have won Shell's highest image award for the state of Kentucky for the last three years."

    Thomas Investments' Barbara Thomas said the family had been looking for "the right type of buyer.

    "We didn't want to sell to one of the larger chains that would change everything," she noted. "We wanted to sell to someone that would keep our local office staffed with our long-term employees, keep using the common carrier we have partnered with for over 30 years for fuel deliveries, and treat the employees like we have treated them over the years -- like a big family."

    Warner Hall, Workman Oil president, said his management team plans to maintain Thomas Investments' high standards and "build off of their successes rather than making sweeping changes and force everything into a template.

    "The Thomas employees have a real strength in foodservice. We are looking to continue our growth through acquisitions and are sensitive to other small-company operator's needs and desires to take care of their existing employees as they exit the business."

    The stores will be rebranded with the Apple Market name, but will continue to offer Shell gasoline. Workman Oil is a Shell and BP jobber; an unbranded offering is in development.

    Workman Oil hired all of the Thomas Investments employees; it now has approximately 550 employees.

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