O&A Masthead

Colorado News —
February 2022

Columnist — Joyce Trent

DENVER — Alta Convenience made a major purchase of Western Oil's Petro-Mart C-stores recently, allowing the chain to expand into Missouri and Illinois.

Alta, a joint venture of funds managed by affiliates of Fortress Investment Group and a subsidiary of Phillips 66, acquired 46 Petro-Mart convenience stores and 39 wholesale dealers in the transaction.

Western Oil was founded over thirty years ago by George Eble Jr. It became a major petroleum marketer and convenience store retailer in the greater St. Louis region and Illinois.

"It's rare to have an opportunity to acquire a portfolio of stores that have both quality locations as well as being operationally sound," said Rich Spresser, president of Alta. Spresser has been on a fast-moving roll of growing the Alta organization in the past decade.

And the seller said he appreciates handing over the reins to such an accomplished leader in the industry.

Colorado flag

"I am confident in Rich's stewardship and excited for what the future holds for our business, our employees, and the communities we have served," said Eble.

Alta is based in Denver and had 111 convenience stores in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico and Wyoming prior to the transaction. It also markets fuel under several brands, including Phillips 66. The Fortress and Phillips 66 venture purchased Alta in January 2021, leaving Spresser in place.

COMMERCE CITY — Offen Petroleum has strengthened its position in Colorado in a recently completed transaction with a wholesaler of motor fuels, and has expanded its reach in the U.S. by signing an exclusive sales contract with a propane distributor in the Ozark region.

Offen, based in Commerce City, is an independent distributor of motor fuels, propane and lubricants. It also provides petroleum logistics services in 26 states in the West and Midwest.

In the first transaction, Offen acquired a group of branded dealer contracts from Petroleum Management, a motor fuels distributor headquartered in Platteville. It sells Shell, Conoco, Phillips 66, Exxon, Mobil, Valero and Sinclair brands. Offen now has a majority of Petroleum Management assets in the Front Range.

Petroleum Management will continue operating convenience stores and supply some third-party dealers in Colorado.

The second deal was struck with Pathfinder Transportation, of Hiwasse, Ark., which distributes propane in Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma through its affiliate, Tri-State Petroleum. Certain Pathfinder logistics assets were acquired and an exclusive propane sales contract was signed with Tri-State for distribution in the Ozarks.

Offen is a portfolio company of Court Square Capital Partners, a New York private equity firm. It distributes more than 2.2 billion gallons of motor fuel a year to western and midwestern states. It also sells propane and lubricants for commercial, industrial, and passenger cars, and diesel exhaust fluid used in emission control.

DENVER — Monfort Cos. have purchased eight convenience stores in the west Texas area.

The deal was made with Penta Operating LLC., dba Jack's Convenience Stores, and includes a Jack's Lube and Wash oil change and car wash location. The stores are in Midland, San Angelo and Abilene.

Monfort, based in Denver, is an investment management company that has invested in more than a dozen convenience stores and gasoline stations in Colorado, Wyoming, and Kansas as one section of its enterprise. Original investments centered on rural locations, but the company has now started acquiring operations in urban areas. It is looking for opportunities in Minnesota and Arizona as well as in Texas.

Penta was founded more than fifty years ago. It originally was called the Frank Ligon Oil Co., after its founder. His daughter, Monica Wolfe, and her husband, Tyler, took over in 2001. In 2014 the business became Penta Operating with investors Alvin New, Randy Brooks, Devin Bates, and Robert Eggleston signing on.

The Jack's brand arrived in 2008, offering both c-store items and Jack's-brand products tailored to its customer base.

Five of the locations include car washes and two offer breakfast burritos and biscuits, sandwiches, pizza and fresh salad under the GrubNStuff label.

Monfort "focuses on economic drivers and growth engines for the communities in which it operates." It is hoping to expand in the Midwest and Southeast.

MONUMENT — She was a regular Bonnie, but she didn't need a Clyde to cause havoc.

The so-far unnamed suspect was arrested after she stole a car at a gas station near Denver and led police on a wild chase over medians and curbs, ending in a failed attempt to carjack another vehicle.

The bizarre saga started when the woman stole a car from a gas station, not realizing that the automatic license plate reader would alert authorities that it was stolen. When police officers set up a perimeter to try to block her escape she just backed the vehicle into the police car in the rear and roared away, hopping barriers to get onto the highway.

A tire deflation effort did not work as she sped south. A state patrolman got into the act, managing to pin her to the median.

Even that didn't stop her. She leaped out of the vehicle with a gun, jumped over the median to the northbound lanes and tried to carjack another vehicle. The patrolman fired a shot. He missed. But authorities were then able to surround the woman who was taken into custody without further drama. Traffic slowed to a crawl during the incident.

DENVER — The car wash business continues to explode in Colorado.

Cobblestone Auto Spa expanded its network in the Denver area, acquiring seven Living Water Express locations.

The Phoenix-based firm first appeared in Colorado in 2020 and had already expanded to eighteen locations in Denver. It has fifteen more sites under construction or in development.

The latest acquisitions are in Littleton, Aurora, Thornton, Lakewood and Highlands Ranch.

Nathan Day and his family purchased Mountain View Car Wash in Steamboat in March of 2021 and recently undertook a series of major improvements at the business renamed Velocity Car Wash. They own three others in Colorado and three in Utah.

Fourteen free vacuum bays have been installed already. Also planned are air tools, mat holders, tire shine, extra waxes, pay stations (allowing payment before entering the wash), and a separate fast lane for members. Eventually they plan to add scanners to read member license plates as they drive through the wash. The owners also will put in a system to catch the drain water and filter it.

The entire family works at the wash. They have had vast experience and are happy to work at the same location.

In Colorado Springs the owners of Big Splash have completed demolishing a record store they purchased and plan to open a wash by the end of the year. Big Splash came into the Springs a year ago with a northside wash. This one is centrally located.

And SteamPunk Express opened its new car wash late last year in the west side of Loveland.

DENVER — The mayor of this city vetoed the City Council's attempt to ban sale of flavored tobacco, much to the relief of convenience stores and other tobacco outlets.

Mayor Michael Hancock said he vetoed the bill, not because it wasn't well-intentioned, but because it was not the right way to stop young people from using tobacco, its main purpose.

The bill would have prohibited the sale of flavored menthol cigarettes, chewing tobacco, and vaping products starting in January 2023. Retailers already are prohibited from selling to anyone under 21 and are required to obtain a license to sell tobacco. There is a need to enhance enforcement, Hancock said.

The Colorado Convenience Store Association said it supports increasing penalties for bad actors, providing higher standards for verifying age of buyers, and ensuring that retailers sell products approved by government regulators.

"The Mayor and the Council will find the association and our members willing partners in stopping kids from getting these products in our stores," the statement read.

DENVER — Gasoline prices in the state are finally coming down, but were still higher than the national average at press-time.

As December ended, a gallon of unleaded in Colorado cost on average $3.264. The national average was $3.136. By Jan. 3 the price in the state had dropped to $3.252, still 11 cents higher than nationally.

Colorado reached its peak in August at $3.64, a seven-year high.

The price drop likely was a result of the omicron surge, said Patrick DeHaan, a petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.

"As cases surged the demand for gas has declined and prices came down." He said he expects a further drop as more restrictions affecting travel are put in place.

Originally published in the February 2022 issue of the O&A Marketing News.
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