Crown Comeback

Flag being offered as alternative for jobbers wanting recognizable brand, program

BALTIMORE -- The Crown Central brand is staging a comeback. The company has developed and is now rolling out a program for jobbers and individual dealers.

In January of 2005 Crown Central Petroleum Corp. was in the process of divesting its remaining refinery and terminal assets having concluded the sale of several hundred retail locations the prior year. Crown was a large, 85-year-old company with more than $2 billion in annual sales, but in the realm of the Major Oil companies, it was too small to compete and needed to change.

At one point there was concern that the company would end up like other struggling retail chains and suffer through a bankruptcy-induced liquidation, but by mid 2005, after the asset sales were completed, it became apparent that the creditors would be paid in full.

At this same time Crown was fielding requests to use the Crown brands (Crown, Fast Fare, ExpressMartand Zippy Mart) throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states. Crown changed its name to Crown Central LLC and embarked on a new business venturethe licensing of the Crown brands.

Since Crown was primarily a direct retailer, the existing branded distributor program was small and rooted in fuel supply. The company took stock, it said, and realized that the program could be enhanced to fit a variety of needs for independent jobbers and dealers.

With the continuing consolidation of the gasoline/convenience retailing business, the company believed that a need was developing for a brand that had flexible features and competitive programs available for image and credit/debit card processing, it said.

Flexibility was the key, it added, and discussions with existing and potential Crown distributors revealed that what they wanted was a program that provided:

Freedom to buy fuel from multiple qualified sources. Low up-front cost to re-image using quality vendors. Competitive credit/debit card processing with quick and easy reconciliation that can be used for unbranded as well as Crown branded units. No per-gallon fees and no long term contracts. Ability to sell alternative fuels such as Biodiesel, E85 and CNG under a consolidated retail brand. Optional upgrade/re-image finance programs.

So Crown has developed a program available nationwide to jobbers and individual dealers. Those who choose to go with the Crown brand agree to:

Sell retail fuel that meets the quality specifications set out by Crown. Maintain image/operation standards. Use the Crown credit card processing network.

The Crown brand has developed into a very viable and affordable alternative for those jobbers and dealers wanting a recognizable brand with an established image and reputation, but not wishing to go through the trouble of brand development including trademarking, graphic design and program development, said the Baltimore-based company.

Currently there are more than 75 Crown-branded units in seven states with plans on track to add an additional 50 in the next few months.