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Circle K

Circle K Stores, Inc.
Wholly owned subsidiary
FoundedEl Paso, Texas (1951)
HeadquartersHouston, Texas, USA
IndustryRetail (Convenience stores)
ProductsThirst Buster fountain drinks
Revenue $1.79 billion, USD (2004)
ParentAlimentation Couche-Tard


Circle K is a trademark owned by Alimentation Couche-Tard to designate a chain of company operated and convenience stores in the United States.



Circle K is the United States' largest company-owned convenience store chain, 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, BP 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. The chain operates internationally, branching into other 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 Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as the food store portions of many Shell stations.

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, the company has acquired the 90-store Spectrum chain serving Georgia and Alabama[1], and 35 Sterling Dairy locations in Northwestern 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. 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.

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 over 4,600 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 bankruptcy protection 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 conveniece 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 their company-owned stores into Circle K in the western portion of the US. ConocoPhillips remodeled the stores into the Circle K scheme but will still operate them. The stores will still have the new ConocoPhillips unified canopy design and ProClean gasolines.

Pop culture

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."

See also


  1. ^
  • Circle K company website
  • [1] Large photo of a Circle K in Okayama, Japan
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Circle_K". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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