Refuel Convenience & Gas Chain Charts $50M Expansion
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. — South Carolina convenience store chain Refuel is looking to beef up its presence in Charleston and eastern South Carolina with plans to build 10 new stores over the next year in a $50 million investment.
The new Charleston-area stores will be in Nexton near Summerville, Cainhoy Plantation in the Wando area of Berkeley County, as well as pending sites in Mount Pleasant, Charleston and Summerville. Currently, one site is under construction in Sumter, while others are planned along Interstate 95 in Orangeburg and Dillion counties. A 10th unannounced location is expected to open along the heavily traveled East Coast corridor, reported Post and Courier.
According to Refuel CEO Mark Jordan, the new stores will add between 150 and 200 new employees to the company’s roughly 400 now. However, he believes the number of employees could reach 1,200 by next year as the company’s store count could surpass 100 through acquisitions of mostly small firms in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.
Consolidation in the "highly fragmented" c-store business is just beginning since the cost of doing business continues to rise for smaller operations, he noted.
"Single-store operators are still a huge part of the business ... and the cost of doing business is more now," Jordan said. "We think there is a tremendous opportunity to expand."
Refuel and its five-store chain became part of Texas-based private equity firm First Reserve earlier this year. The latter also acquired more than two dozen stores in the Pee Dee region from Hartsville, S.C.'s West Oil Inc. The acquired stores were rebranded and upgraded as Refuel shops with Jordan at the helm of the 31-store venture, along with business partner Travis Smith, as Convenience Store Newspreviously reported.
Mount-Pleasant based Refuel Operating Co. also recently acquired Bishopville Petroleum Co. in the Pee Dee region, adding two more stores in Bishopville and Camden along Interstate 20 to its portfolio and expanding its current count to 33 locations.
Green Deschamps, owner and president of Bishopville Petroleum, is joining Refuel as director of a newly formed wholesale fuel distribution division and will help with expanding the business, Post and Courier added.
"The transaction is highly complementary as it fits nicely into Refuel's existing geographic footprint and is also consistent with Refuel's overall focus on high-quality stores with exceptional service," Jordan said.
Jordan opened the first Refuel in 2008, promising fresh healthy food options and exemplified service to change the image and perception of traditional c-stores. The founder invested about $1 million in the first location. Now, it takes about $5 million to build a store.
Refuel's expansion is paralleling that of Savannah, Ga.-based Parker's, which plans to open nine new Parker's Kitchen locations in the Charleston area over the next year by way of a $50 million investment. The convenience retailer opened the first of its planned portfolio in Moncks Corner, S.C., on July 1.