Casey’s buys Minit Marts in Kentucky, Tennessee

Published 4:09 pm Thursday, August 17, 2023

Minit Mart, the convenience store chain with deep roots in the Bowling Green area, will soon be a thing of the past locally.

Iowa-based Casey’s General Stores announced this week an agreement to acquire 63 Kentucky and Tennessee convenience stores from Minit Mart parent EG America LLC. The stores now operate under the Minit Mart and Certified Oil brands but will gradually be re-branded as Casey’s stores and add to that growing chain’s presence in Kentucky and Tennessee.

Included in the purchase are the nine Minit Mart stores in Bowling Green, where the pioneering convenience store chain once had its headquarters and co-founder Fred Higgins built it into a thriving enterprise.

Higgins, who died in 2019, started Minit Mart with a single store in Lexington in 1967. He and his father Ralph Higgins expanded to six stores by the time the younger Higgins completed law school at the University of Kentucky in 1969.

After serving in the U.S. Army from 1969 through 1972, Fred Higgins began growing the Minit Mart chain and developing his stores with innovations like fast-food restaurants and gas pumps.

By 1998, Minit Mart had grown to 87 stores doing some $250 million in business annually.

That rapid growth earned Higgins many honors, including induction into the Junior Achievement Business Hall of Fame and recognition by the Kentucky Grocers Association as Grocer of the Year.

In 2001, Higgins leased Minit Mart’s assets to Clark Retail Enterprises Inc., but Clark later filed for bankruptcy, and Higgins ended up regaining control of 31 of the stores. He sold those in 2013 to Travel Centers of America for $67 million.

Travel Centers continued to expand the brand before selling in 2018 a total of 225 Minit Mart stores to United Kingdom-based EG Group.

Now EG Group is divesting itself of a sizable chunk of the convenience stores in a move that both seller and buyer see as beneficial.

“We have built strong and successful business over the years in these Certified Oil and Minit Mart stores, and we are proud of the hard work and dedication shown by our team members,” EG America President Nick Unkovic said in a news release. “Casey’s is an excellent operator, and we believe these stores and team members will continue to thrive.”

Casey’s has certainly thrived since its founding in 1967, growing largely through acquisitions to where it is now a Fortune 500 company operating more than 2,500 stores across 16 states.

The third-largest convenience store retailer and fifth-largest pizza chain in the U.S., Casey’s has already made inroads into southcentral Kentucky with locations in Auburn, Franklin and Russellville.

Now Casey’s president and CEO Darren Rebelez said the company’s latest acquisition will increase its presence in this region.

“One of the key pillars in our strategic plan is to accelerate our store growth over the next three years and bring Casey’s to more communities,” Rebelez said in a news release. “This opportunity is an excellent strategic fit as we look to add locations in Kentucky and Tennessee.”

The purchase of the 63 stores is expected to be finalized later this year. Casey’s Communications Specialist Kendrew Panyanouvong said the company aims to retain as many current employees as possible.

“I don’t have information at this time regarding timelines and plans for each individual store,” he said in an email, “but we look forward to the next steps in this transaction and to welcoming Minit Mart team members to Casey’s.”