ANDERSON — In a surprise decision, Ricker Oil Co. Inc. Chairman Jay Ricker announced Thursday the company's 56 convenience stores and gas stations will be acquired by the Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle Inc. supermarket chain.
“We are thrilled to partner with such a strong company, brand and talented group of Ricker’s employees,” Laura Karet, Giant Eagle president and CEO, said in a written statement. “We look forward to building on the great history that Ricker’s has in Indiana, and carrying forward many of the amazing offerings and services Ricker’s customers have come to expect.”
Because both companies are private family-owned businesses, financial terms were not disclosed. The acquisition is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
Giant Eagle operates 200 supermarkets and 210 convenience store/gas stations in five states. The company entered the Indiana grocery and gas and convenience store market in October 2015 with the opening of a Market District store in Carmel.
The company operates six GetGo Cafe & Markets in the Indianapolis area, and is preparing to open a seventh store in Zionsville next month, the company said in a statement.
There will be no disruption to Ricker’s store operations, nor are there any immediate plans to change the GetGo or Ricker’s store experience. The company said it will also retain Ricker's 850 employees.
“Ricker’s has proudly served the Indiana community for nearly 40 years, and we are so excited to have found a partner in Giant Eagle and GetGo who shares the people-focused values we hold so dearly,” said Ricker's President and CEO Quinn Ricker. “We believe strongly that the coming together of our two businesses will be a seamless, and extremely positive, experience for employees, customers and business partners alike.”
Quinn Ricker is expected to join Giant Eagle to oversee the company's Indiana properties, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.
Jay and Nancy Ricker founded the company out of their home in Middletown in 1979. They opened their first convenience store a decade later and eventually moved the company headquarters to Anderson.
“We want to thank our loyal Ricker’s customers, and assure them this new business arrangement will help us maintain our position as a leader in the convenience store industry,” Jay Ricker said.
Ricker, 68, told the Indiana Business Journal that Giant Eagle approached him about making a deal.
Greg Newby, who stopped at the Ricker's store at 2 Madison Ave. for a Ricker's Pop on Thursday afternoon said he wasn't too surprised to hear about the sale because of Jay Ricker's age.
But gas customer Celeste Couch said she "was really used to Ricker's ... It's really close." Couch said she shops at Ricker's several times a week and takes advantage of as many customer loyalty programs as she can.
Greg Winker, executive director of the Anderson Economic Development Department, said he was as surprised as anyone about Ricker's decision to sell the company.
"I think the Ricker family and the company has been wonderful for the city of Anderson, and I'm anxious to see what's next for them," he said.
Dirk Webb, Madison County Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, echoed those remarks, saying the Ricker family fulfilled nearly every small businessman's dream of starting a company and have it become a substantial and well-regarded enterprise.
"We appreciate everything the Rickers have done for the community both personally and as a business, and we look forward to working with Giant Eagle," Webb said.
Steve Holtz, editor-in-chief of CSP Magazine, a trade publication that covers the convenience story industry, said when the news of the sale broke Thursday, "it was kind of a shocker for our industry."
Although comparatively small, he said, Ricker's has a reputation for being one of the most innovative companies in the convenience store market segment, particularly in their use of new technology.
"It's a surprising move," he said.
Over the past couple of years, Ricker has been a strong advocate for updating Indiana's liquor laws to allow convenience stores to sell cold beer and wine. Cold beer can only be sold cold at so-called package stores, and Ricker believes that should change.
He told the IBJ he will serve as a consultant to Giant Eagle on those issues after the sale is finalized.
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Giant Eagle Inc. by the numbers
Headquarters: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Number of stores: 200 supermarkets and 210 convenience/gas stations.
Operations in five states:
Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Indiana
Number of employees: 32,000
31st largest privately-held company in the U.S. (Forbes)
Estimated revenue: $9.3 billion in fiscal year 2016 (Forbes)