|Type||Wholly owned subsidiary|
|Industry||Retail (Convenience stores)|
|Founded||El Paso, Texas (1951)|
|Headquarters||Tempe, Arizona, U.S.|
|Products||Thirst Buster fountain drinks|
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Circle K is an international chain of convenience stores, founded in 1951, inEl Paso, Texas, United States. It is owned and operated by the Canadian-based Alimentation Couche-Tard.
Circle K is the largest company-owned convenience store chain in the U.S, and second in overall number of U.S. stores to 7-Eleven. Some Circle K stores operate gasoline pumps selling Union 76-branded motor fuels; others sell Mobil,Marathon, ConocoPhillips, Irving, BP, Sunoco or Shell-branded fuel. Until mid-2006, nearly all Circle K stores in South Texas sold Citgo-branded fuel; however, those stores have dropped the Circle K name and now operate as Stripes Convenience Stores and are served by Valero-branded fuel. Circle K stores in northeast Ohio vary depending upon what stores they used to be: the majority are former Citgo/Holland Oil, whose gas is branded as Circle K; others are remnants of the Lawson's/Dairy Mart chain, which sell gas from other companies.
The chain operates internationally, branching into Mexico and continents such as Asia. In Hong Kong and Taiwan, the store is called OK in reference to the circle around the K.
Circle K was previously in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand as the food store portions of many Shell stations. The Circle K brand re-entered the Canadian market in 2008 in connection with Couche-Tard's acquisition of Irving Oil's convenience store network, as discussed below.
The chain is primarily located in the Southern, Western and Southwestern U.S., and within the past couple of years expanded into the Midwest when the Circle K name replaced Couche-Tard brands Mac's, Bigfoot, Dairy Mart, and Handy Andy. Most recently,[when?] the company has acquired the 90-store Spectrum chain serving Georgiaand Alabama, the CFM chain in Missouri, and 35 Sterling Dairy locations in Northwest Ohio.
Entrepreneur Fred Hervey purchased three Kay’s Food Stores in El Paso, Texas in 1951. Hervey renamed the stores Circle K. He grew the Circle K chain into neighboring New Mexico and Arizona, which has been the company’s home base since 1957 (Hervey would go on to serve two terms as mayor of El Paso).
According to the Circle K website, Circle K grew its retail network through a series of acquisitions conducted during the next few decades, which were incorporated into the Circle K brand. By 1975, there were 1,000 Circle K stores across the US. In 1979, Circle K entered the international market when a licensing agreement established the first Circle K stores in Japan; Circle K stores in Japan are run by the Circle K Sunkus Corporation, which licenses the Circle K brand from Alimentation Couche-Tard. In 1983, the number of stores increased to 2,180 with the purchase of the 960-store UtoteM chain.
The Thirst Buster fountain drink was introduced in 1983. It is one of Circle K's flagship products today. Now known as "Polar Pop" in some areas, Circle K advertises that customers can buy any size for just a single price.
Karl Eller, a prominent Phoenix businessman, served as the company's CEO from 1983-1990. During that time, Eller built Circle K into the second largest convenience store operation and the largest publicly owned convenience store chain in the U.S. with 4,631 stores in 32 states and an additional 1,300 or so licensed or joint venture stores in 13 foreign countries. Under Eller's leadership, the company grew from annual sales of $747 million to over $3 billion.
Fortunes declined in the late 1980s as the US economy began to slow down, and Circle K filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcyprotection in May 1990; Eller resigned as CEO. Some underperforming locations were sold or closed. In 1993 the company was purchased by Investcorp, an international investment group, and emerged from bankruptcy.
Circle K was acquired by Tosco Corporation, an independent petroleum refiner and marketer, in 1996, but kept its headquarters in Phoenix. Tosco was purchased in 2001 by Phillips Petroleum, which in 2002 merged with Conoco to form ConocoPhillips. In 2003 Circle K was purchased by Alimentation Couche-Tard (a large convenience store operator based in the Montreal area) for US$804 million.
In mid-2006, Alimentation Couche-Tard entered into a franchising agreement with ConocoPhillips to brand some of its company-owned stores as Circle K in the western portion of the US. ConocoPhillips remodeled the stores into the Circle K scheme but continued to operate them. The stores continued to have the new ConocoPhillips unified canopy design and ProClean gasolines.
Another oil company, Canada-based Irving Oil, leased out its convenience stores operating under the Bluecanoe and Mainway banners in the United States and Atlantic Canada to Couche-Tard, which rebranded the locations to Circle K in July 2008, while still selling Irving-branded fuel. However, the Mainways in Newfoundland and Labrador did not change until summer 2010. The parties had earlier formed a similar partnership in Quebec, with the stores there operated as Couche-Tard.
In April 2009, ExxonMobil sold 43 Phoenix, Arizona stores to parent company Couche-Tard as part of a sale of the larger On the Run franchise. These 43 stores are to be rebranded under the Circle K name.
The film Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure features the well known line by Keanu Reeves's character Ted "Theodore" Logan, "Strange things are afoot at the Circle K."
In the Counting Crows song "Cowboys" a reference is made to "Circle K killers".
The OK Go song "No Sign of Life", from their album Oh No has a line that mentions the store: "Sarah's still down on the bench by the Circle K, crying, crying all day."
American punk band Screeching Weasel mentions Circle K in the lyrics to "Crying in my Beer".
Band Spiderbait has a song based on Circle K
Circle K convenience stores are known fondly and colloquially by Hong Kong locals as "O.K."
Punk band Teenage Bottlerocket references Circle K in the lyrics for the song "Skate or Die"
On Season 3 of True Blood, The Vampire Queen of Louisiana, Sophie-Anne LeClerq (Evan Rachel Wood) is having fun with lottery tickets, wins another hundred dollars and yells for her human Hadley to "Run down to Circle-K and get me another hundred of these."