E.J. Pope Coal Co. was founded in 1919 as a coal hauling business by horse-drawn wagon. In 1938, the company added a heating oil distribution division and rebranded as E.J. Pope Coal & Oil Co. The company entered the motor fuels distribution business in 1957 when E.J. “Buddy” Pope Jr. purchased the business from his father.
In 1975, the company made the decision to open its first convenience store in Mount Olive, N.C., and the Handy Mart store brand was born. Over the next 45 years, and recently under the leadership of E.J. “Judson” Pope III, the company has grown the Handy Mart brand into a highly recognized regional chain of convenience stores, providing customers across eastern North Carolina with safe and convenient neighborhood stores that provide outstanding service and high-quality convenience options. In 1994, the company began co-branding stores with nationally recognized foodservice brands in order to enhance the store offerings.
As of the closing, EJP operated 36 stores under the Handy Mart store brand, with approximately 20 branded QSRs or proprietary food offerings co-located at the stores. Additionally, via its sister company, Pope Transport, the company hauls its own fuel and also acts as a common carrier for other, third-party hauling customers. Judson Pope will retain Pope Transport and continue to haul fuel to the 36 stores for GPM, as well as for its existing customer base.
“Given how long of a legacy my family and I have had with this company, selling was a very difficult decision for me,” said Judson Pope. “With the help of a great team around me, we built a first-class operation and many team members will be transitioning to GPM and continuing to provide excellent customer service to our customers throughout eastern North Carolina.”
Matrix Capital Markets provided merger and acquisition advisory services to EJP, which included valuation advisory, marketing the business through a confidential, structured sale process, and negotiation of the sale.