GARDINER — Pine State Trading Co. is selling its convenience store category, by far the largest of its five divisions, to the nation’s second-largest convenience store supplier.

Pine State CEO Nick Alberding, a grandson of late company founder Charlie Canning Sr., said Core-Mark Holdings Company Inc. of San Francisco has vowed to keep all approximately 540 employees now working in Pine State Convenience. It will operate out of the same Gardiner warehouse and offices off U.S. Route 201 in the former Associated Grocers warehouse, which is part of the purchase.

“All jobs will be retained,” Alberding said Monday morning at Pine State’s Gardiner headquarters. “Not only are they hiring all our people, but they’re hiring them with their seniority in place and with equal or better benefits. We wouldn’t do this if our people weren’t involved.”

The purchase price is estimated to be $112 million, according to a news release posted on Core-Mark’s investor relations website.

Alberding said the deal will likely close in 30 to 60 days, but for employees and retailers served by the company, it should be “business as usual” after the sale.

It will also be business as usual for Pine State’s remaining four divisions — Pine State Beverage based at Libby Hill Business Park in Gardiner, Pine State Spirits and Pine State Vending, based in warehouses and offices on the Augusta-Hallowell city line, and Town & Country Foods, based in Greene, and those divisions’ approximately 450 employees. Those divisions will remain in their current locations, Alberding will remain as CEO of Pine State Trading and Gena Canning will remain as a managing partner.

Alberding said he and other officials of Pine State, a family-owned business which this month celebrated its 75th year in business, decided to sell because they believed it would be best for the long-term success of the convenience store division.

He said the deal answers the three questions his grandfather and uncles stressed: Is it good for the future and health of the company? Is it good for employees? Will customers be taken care of with the same high level of service they’ve grown to expect from Pine State?

He said they chose to sell to the 128-year-old Core-Mark because the firm’s officials believe in the same things they believe in and are expected to treat employees and customers well while ensuring the company has a vibrant future. He said Core-Mark was not strong in the Northeast market.

Pine State Convenience serves between 4,000 and 4,500 convenience stores from Fort Kent, Maine, to New York, including independent stores and chain stores such as Big Apple.

“Both our companies have experienced great success over the past decade largely due to our reputations in the marketplace with customers, employees and suppliers,” Tom Perkins, president and CEO of Core-Mark, said in a news release. “This deal affords us the opportunity to widen our geographic footprint in an area where we have a limited presence and offer Pine State customers a new spectrum of products and marketing programs that have brought our own retailers success.”

The sale went under contract Friday, which is when employees were notified of the deal.

“I’m very excited about it. This is a great thing for us,” said 32-year Pine State employee Kelly Beaulieu, director of customer service and order processing, who’ll work for the new company and who has four family members employed by Pine State. “The biggest thing is it is all about the people, and we’re being retained. The owners thought about us.”

Keith Canning, now a managing partner of Pine State and Alberding’s cousin, will be president of the new entity, Pine State Convenience, a Division of Core-Mark.

“I am honored to lead this team of dedicated employees who share my passion of delivering innovative solutions and exceptional service to our customers and suppliers,” Keith Canning said in the news release. “Core-Mark’s investment in Maine will bring advanced technology and proven marketing programs that will provide new opportunities to help our customers continue to grow.”

Gardiner Mayor Thom Harnett said he was surprised to learn of the sale, but pleased to hear Core-Mark plans to keep the current employees and current location in Gardiner. He congratulated the owners of the family business on the sale of the division.

He said Pine State is one of the largest employers in the city if not the largest. He said the company has been especially supportive of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Gardiner.

“From the city’s perspective we’re obviously very gratified they’ll be keeping the 540 jobs in Gardiner,” Harnett said Monday. “They’re a big piece of our economic puzzle, and we’re looking forward to working with Core-Mark as a community partner. And we’re certainly happy Pine State is going to maintain their presence in Gardiner. We’re very happy to have them.”

Alberding said Pine State’s convenience store division, the tenth largest such company in the nation, is profitable. He said he and his cousins Keith and Gena Canning decided to sell, in part because to remain successful such businesses need to grow. He said once they decided to sell the division they worked with an adviser, Covington Associates, over 18 months and decided Core-Mark would be the best fit.

“They’re community-minded folks, and they also didn’t have any strength in New England,” Alberding said of Core-Mark. “They need everybody (working at Pine State now). Look outside: We’ve got a ‘now hiring’ sign up. Which we will continue to do right up through the closing.”

Pine State’s headquarters, currently on the second floor of the Market Street facility that is being sold, will move to 7,000 square feet of space the company will lease in a former Bank of Maine building at Libby Hill Business Park.

Alberding said the company founder, his grandfather Charlie Canning Sr., would be pleased with the deal.

“While this is a strategic business decision for our family, it is also an emotional one,” Gena Canning said. “For 30 years, Nick, Keith and I have worked shoulder to shoulder with an incredible group of people. It was critical to us that Core-Mark wanted to retain all the employees dedicated to this division and that they shared our commitment to the well-being of our employees and their families.”

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

Twitter: @kedwardskj

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