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Deal Gives Circle K 11 Neighbors Locations

MOUNT AIRY, N.C. -- Eleven Neighbors Stores locations will move to Circle K's portfolio today in what is the first step in the 30-year-old Neighbors' move to sell all its retail outlets.

Owner Gary York told the Mount Airy News that the increased competition from larger corporations was a key factor in the convenience store chain's decision to get out of the business. The stores changing hands today include Neighbors locations in high-traffic areas of Surry County. Before the deal with Circle K, Neighbors had 19 stores in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina.

Circle K is buying the Neighbors on Rockford Street (U.S. 601) in Mount Airy, on Red Brush Road off Interstate 74, in Pilot Mountain, in Fairview near the intersection of N.C. 268 and U.S. 601 and two located in Elkin. Other outlets in Forsyth and Guilford counties which are part of the regional chain are being acquired by Circle K as well, according to the news report. The purchase price was not disclosed.

For now, Neighbors will continue to operate stores in Surry County. They include four in Mount Airy: on North Main Street, at the intersection of South and Pine streets, on South Main Street (Bannertown) and on North Franklin Road, along with its store in Flat Rock.

Negotiations are planned for the sale of the remaining eight stores in the Neighbors chain but York said there is no definite timeline.

The stores collectively employ 125 people, with Circle K expected to retain those who work at the outlets it is acquiring, the news report added.

"It's just a matter of the huge companies will dominate this business," York explained. "I think all the people can see that survival is going to be of the big companies that have tremendous buying power."

He pointed out that since Neighbors Stores has always made an effort to give back to the community through various charitable efforts involving schools, churches, scouting and others, "it just became very difficult to compete." He told the newspaper this trend became apparent in the fall of 2008.

The sale of the stores to Circle K is a result of about a two-to-three-year negotiation process, which had a goal of having them acquired by an entity that would be similarly community-minded, York added.

"We spent a lot of time and made a commitment to find a company that would be good to the [employees] and good for the community," he said. "And I think they will be a tremendous community blessing."

Circle K is buying those stores owned by Neighbors and assuming the leases of others. The Circle K signs will not immediately grace the stores and some remodeling work will begin soon.

A long with the Neighbors stores, York said a trucking arm of the chain which transports fuel from bulk terminals in Greensboro has been sold to Petroleum Transport Co. (PTC), which is owned his brother and was started by his father. The York family launched York Oil Co. in White Plains in 1935.


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