Farewell to Wilson Farms

Transition to 7-Eleven banner begins in western New York

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Wilson Farms Inc. convenience store chain, acquired by 7-Eleven Inc. earlier this year, has begun its transition to its new brand, reported the Buffalo News. A handful of the 188 locations have begun flying the 7- Eleven banner. Of those where remodeling is under way, contractors are at work renovating sites, aisles are being configured and 7-Eleven's iconic drinks--Big Gulp and Slurpee--are making their debut.

The change, which many local consumers regard as a nostalgic loss, means the decades-old Wilson Farms brand will soon cease to exist, added a report by the Tonawanda News.

WFI Group, which is led by the Nanula family and New York City private-equity firm Bruckmann, Rosser, Sherrill & Co., sold the stores to 7-Eleven in a deal that was announced in April and closed in June.

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The Wilson Farms acquisition greatly increases 7-Eleven's presence in western New York, where it currently has only about two-dozen locations. It has about 8,800 stores in North America and about 42,700 worldwide.

A Wilson Farms store in the Tonawanda, N.Y., is one of the first of the chain to complete the switch to its new identity, said the Tonawanda News. (The first Wilson Farms store opened in Tonawanda in 1969, according the company history on its website.)

Margaret Chabris, director of public relations for 7-Eleven, told the newspaper that the staggered transition is on schedule, having been announced to begin this fall. She did not say when the last of the stores is expected to be converted, but it could take some time.

The Tonawanda store has remained open, doing business even as workers have been busy reconfiguring isles and products, the report said.

"Wilson Farms has a successful store operation, quality locations and a strong customer-service culture," Stan Reynolds, 7-Eleven executive vice president and CFO, said in a statement when the deal was announced. "The combination of the two companies will strengthen our convenience offering in the western New York area."

Wilson Farms employs more than 2,000 people, said the report. Prior to its most recent ownership, it was operated under the Tops Markets umbrella.

The chain has varying store hours in western New York, with many locations closing around midnight, while 7-Eleven is regarded as a 24-hour operation.

The acquisition is related to 7-Eleven's stated expansion including acquisitions from the likes of ExxonMobil in Florida and Illinois, certain Shell sites in Dallas, Quarles Petroleum Inc., Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, Zooms Inc., New England Pantry and Little Sue are among the company's most recent acquisitions.

Dallas-based 7-Eleven operates, franchises or licenses more than 8,800 7-Eleven stores in North America. Globally, there are approximately 42,700 7-Eleven stores in 16 countries. During 2010, 7-Eleven stores worldwide generated total sales close to $63 billion.