Open Pantry to the Core

Published in CSP Daily News

Retailer plans to operate remaining eight stores, grow, after selling 19 to 7-Eleven

Robert A. Buhler

PLEASANT PRAIRIE, Wis. -- Following its successful divestiture of 19 convenience stores to 7-Eleven Inc. in June, Open Pantry Food Marts of Wisconsin Inc. will continue to operate eight core sites in southeastern Wisconsin and strategically reposition the many Open Pantry brands for a 2013 rollout.

As announced by 7-Eleven last week, Open Pantry sold 19 sites to 7-Eleven to reenter the Wisconsin market (see Related Content below for previous CSP Daily News coverage).

"The global brand 7-Eleven offers to this marketplace adds value for consumers interested in their many proprietary offerings," said Open Pantry president and CEO Robert A. Buhler. "Open Pantry's eight remaining core sites will continue to offer our proprietary products--Willow Creek Coffee, Open Pantry Gourmet sandwiches and salads--serving our core customers."

Open Pantry has no plans to further divest of the remaining eight sites. It will continue to look for growth opportunities, said Buhler.

"Our operating risks are significantly less now with fewer sites, while the real-estate portfolio (E & K Land LLC) continues to hold 16 superb properties transitioned to 7-Eleven. Furthermore, our dealer business remains very important to Open Pantry and can grow, we feel," he said.

Open Pantry "has developed an exceptional operating capacity and branding image which transforms modest sites into upscale, professionally welcoming convenience stores that are nationally recognized and emulated," the company said.

"This ability is of great value to many operators who would like to have both a high-end brand and look, coupled with a successful merchandising offering including buying power and sophisticated drill-down backoffice reporting capability," said Buhler. "We are exploring promoting this capacity to jobbers seriously interested in aiding their sophisticated dealers, as well as convenience store chains who are passionate about making the leap to quality, but need a packaging program to do so."

Also, key to the 7-Eleven deal for Buhler was being certain all Open Pantry employees had an opportunity to transition to 7-Eleven; 190 full-time and part-time employees did make the transition.

"We encouraged all employees to review 7-Eleven's employment package and vast growth opportunities, potentially both domestically and internationally," said Jim Shutz, Open Pantry vice president and director of people assets. "Everything settled out nicely for all store employees, including Open Pantry retaining a key group of highly seasoned store managers to run our core sites."