Massillon, Ohio-based Campbell Oil Co., which operates BellStores Inc., a leading Northeast Ohio chain of convenience stores featuring Marathon fuels, will acquire the petroleum marketing and convenience retailing assets of The Hartley Co. The acquisition includes 16 Hartley-owned and -operated Starfire convenience stores as well as 15 company-owned and dealer-operated locations Campbell will now supply with fuel.
The Starfire locations will convert to and be operated under the BellStores brand while the other 15 locations will be operated by independent dealers and supplied with Marathon fuels by Campbell. All of the stores are located on the state of Ohio, as are the BellStore locations.
“We are excited to expand our reach into Southeast Ohio with the acquisition of these retail assets,” said Campbell Oil and BellStores’ President & CEO Brian Burrow. “We are also pleased to bolster our BellStores’ footprint in some great markets.”
Burrow cited the Hartley Co.’s history of more than a century of being a family-owned business as well as its commitment to values and customer service as reasons that make the acquired stores a perfect fit for Campbell Oil.
Hartley was founded in Cambridge, Ohio, in 1912, when W.H. Hartley built the first gasoline station located between Columbus and the Pennsylvania state line. In 1925, Hartley became a distributor for Shell Oil Co. and quickly grew from 10 stations to one of the largest jobberships in Ohio.
In the 1970s, Hartley established the Starfire brand to distinguish itself from other independent operators. The Starfire branding revitalized the company and in the 2000s, under the fifth generation of Hartley leadership, the company grew to become one of the leading petroleum marketers in the region by adding more stores from BP.
Following this latest acquisition, BellStores will own and operate 74 locations in 21 Ohio counties, offering 29 branded restaurants including Subway, Dairy Queen, Domino’s and Champs Chicken. Current Starfire store employees will transition to the BellStores team. The company will employ more than 1,200 people.
Founded in 1939 as a kerosene and gasoline delivery company, Campbell Oil didn’t open its first c-store until 1985 in Orrville, Ohio. The acquisition is a fairly large leap for BelleStores, a c-store chain that has grown at a manageable pace.
“We have acquired others in the past,” said BelleStores Marketing Manager E.J. Hanolt. “We’ve obviously also had completely new builds, as well, but this one is our largest acquisition to date.”
In 1994, Campbell bought 11 convenience stores in the Akron-Canton area from Shell Oil Co. The company formed the BellStores subsidiary in 1996. Throughout the 2000s, Campbell initiated a food service division and by 2009 had 43 stores with 15 food service offerings. It built a new headquarters building in 2014.
While some chains recently have aggressively pursued growth through multiple acquisitions, Hanolt said that that won’t be the case for BellStores.
“I think our focus right now is on the Starfire acquisition and getting everything converted over to Marathon Fuel,” he said. “We just opened a store in Apple Creek that was a new build. We opened that last month, and we’re excited about that location, as well. But in terms of the future, the focus right now is on what just took place (Oct. 16) and everybody here is really excited about that.”
Starfire locations being converted to BellStores will temporarily close as they are converted to the Marathon fuel brand.
Matrix Capital Markets Group, Inc., a leading independent investment bank, provided merger and acquisition advisory services to Hartley, which included valuation advisory, marketing the business through a confidential, structured sale process, and negotiation of the sale. The transaction was managed by Spencer Cavalier, co-head of Matrix’s Downstream Energy & Convenience Retail Group; Andrew LoPresti, vice president; and Martin McElroy, senior analyst.