Time to Move On

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Time to Move On

This summer, while waiting for the close of the sale of his 10 Toledo, Ohio-area Barney's stores to Armada Oil & Gas Co., Bob Richard, 58, had mixed feelings. "I have been running the company for 30 years and some of my employees have been with me that long," he said. "Competition was not an issue — I own Toledo. But, I'm getting old and it's time to move on."

Approached by the Dearborn, Mich., company, the largest BP distributor in the state with more than 230 customers, Richard at the time was one of several people up for the National Association of Convenience Stores' chairman spot. "I told Armada Oil & Gas if I got the position, I wouldn't sell," he said. "When I didn't get it, they called me again."

Coincidentally, he had two other offers, the same week. "It was a fluke," he said. "I wasn't looking to sell, but I hadn't built anything new in a couple of years and was slowing down. It was just my time."

From there, Richard, said, the transaction was "the typical story. I shot some numbers at them and they said, 'Okay.'"

Unlike other deals in which small chain operators exit the business, market conditions played no role in Richard's decision, he said. "We have a good crew here and keep on top of things. If it is run right, a 10-store chain can compete. That is no issue."

Also unlike other retailers who sell their stores, Richard did not take the highest bid. "Armada Oil wanted to keep our office here in Ohio and keep every employee at every level," said Richard, who said he was concerned about the fate of his employees.

Next up: helping Armada with the transition and then selling his house and moving with wife Sandy to Colorado to "live in a cabin in the mountains."

Still, the retail veteran has no departing words of wisdom for small-chain operators thinking about selling their companies. "I don't know if there is advice you can give," he said. "If someone has a small, well-run chain, it is probably a family operation and it's up to the individual when he's had enough and is tired."