Woodfin Extends Retail Reach

Virginia chain grows its Pit Stop brand with purchase of 25 Exxon sites

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. -- A Virginia retailer will more than double its store count with the purchase of 25 stores from Exxon Mobil Corp. Doswell Ventures, an affiliate of Woodfin Oil Co., is purchasing the sites in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Newport News and Williamsburg, Va., as reported in a CSP Daily News Flash Friday morning.

Woodfin executive vice president Jack Woodfin said the purchase is out of the ordinary for the company, but a matter of latching onto an opportunity when it arises.

"Our typical growth has been, find a green-field site, [image-nocss] evaluate it and built it," he told CSP Daily News. "We normally grow one or two stores a year at best. And as the market got increasingly competitive it became that much harder to find good dirt where it was reasonable to operate a convenience store."

Mechanicsville, Va.-based Woodfin Oil Co. is a 32-year-old, family-owned company with operations in gasoline retailing, heating-oil sales and heating-and-cooling service. It operates 17 Pit Stop convenience stores with various quick-service restaurant and gasoline offers, including seven Exxon-branded stores. It also services 20 dealer sites and 70 commercial fleet sites in Virginia and North Carolina.

Woodfin said he's confident his retail team is ready for the challenge of jumping to operating 42 stores.

"We've got a phenomenal team that runs our retail group, and they're up for the challenge," he said. "The good news is, these are all company-run stations, and the folks at Exxon do a good job [with their stores]."

The sale is part of ExxonMobil's ongoing shift away from owning and operating retail facilities. The deal is scheduled to close by the end of November, and the stations will continue to carry the Exxon brand, while the stores are rebranded to Pit Stop. The selling price was not disclosed.

ExxonMobil decided some time ago to turn over its gasoline retailing to independent owners and operators because of competition in gasoline retailing and low barriers to entry, spokesperson Kevin Allexon said in a report in the Virginian-Pilot.

ExxonMobil notified the Virginia Employment Commission that 216 employees in the region would be laid off in October. However, the employees are expected to join Doswell Ventures. "We're picking up everybody in this transaction," Woodfin said.

The pending sale was not a surprise to one area retailer. "Exxon had the stations on and off the market for the past three years," Jeff Miller, president of Norfolk, Va.-based Miller Oil Co., told the newspaper. Exxon, he said, was the last of the giant petroleum companies that owned stations in the region.

Irving, Texas-based ExxonMobil, which has about 10,500 stations nationwide, derives the bulk of its revenue and earnings from oil production.

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