Handy Mart Sells Chain to GPM

The deal includes 36 c-stores in North Carolina, of which 20 feature QSRs or proprietary food offerings.

RICHMOND, Va. — GPM Investments LLC is picking up 36 convenience stores in its acquisition of E.J. Pope & Son Inc., dba Handy Mart.

Approximately 20 branded quick-service restaurants or proprietary food offerings are co-located at the stores, all of which include fuel and are located in North Carolina. The deal also includes one development parcel.

This is Arko's 20th acquisition since 2013 and complements GPM's existing store network in the Old North State. 

"Handy Mart is a strong regional brand with great people and a robust culture that will make a fantastic addition to our family of community brands," said Arie Kotler, chairman, president and CEO of Arko Corp. "We look forward to expanding further in the Carolinas and providing customers with the high-quality products and service associated with our existing banner stores. We pride ourselves on the ability to unify and maintain the banners of strong regional community brands under our leadership and resources."

E.J. Pope & Son was founded in 1919 as E.J. Pope Coal Co. as a coal hauling business. In 1938, the company added a heating oil distribution division and rebranded as E.J. Pope Coal & Oil Co. It 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 c-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. In 1994, the company began co-branding stores with nationally recognized foodservice brands in order to enhance the store offerings.

As of the closing, Pope Transport will be retained by Judson Pope and will continue to haul fuel to the 36 stores for GPM, as well as for its existing customer base.

Matrix Capital Markets Group Inc. provided merger and acquisition advisory services to E.J. Pope & Son, 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; Sean Dooley, managing director; and Kyle Tipping, associate.

"Given how long of a legacy my family and I have had with this company, selling was a very difficult decision for me. 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," said Judson Pope.

"While the choice to sell the company was not an easy one, I have known Spencer, Sean, and the broader Matrix team for over a decade, so selecting them to advise on the sale made the decision that much easier for me. Spencer, Sean, and Kyle did an exceptional job during every step of the transaction," he added. "My team and I were very pleased with their professional and thorough advice and tireless effort they put forth throughout the entire process. They have been a pleasure to work with.”

Richmond-based GPM is a wholly owned subsidiary of Arko. The acquisition of Handy Mart brings GPM's total number of stores to 3,100, of which approximately 1,415 are company-operated and approximately 1,675 are dealer sites to which Arko supplies fuel.