As of December 2020 Jay Petroleum added 22 Party Mart locations to its existing stable of 35 Pak-a-Sak outlets, including a location in Elkhart. Our footprint spanning from Rensselaer in western Indiana to Findlay along Interstate 75 in Ohio. The Portland-based company was founded by Jim Peterson in 1959. A Portland-based convenience store and gas station chain has grown by more than 60 percent. Jay Petroleum announced the acquisition of Ottawa Oil Company, which included an addition of 22 Ohio Party Mart locations to its portfolio for a total of 57 retail locations. The purchase also included dealer sites, fuel transportation, and consignment sites.
“Certainly it was the largest acquisition that Jay Petroleum has ever done, both in terms of numbers and just dollar amount,” said Jay Petroleum president at the time Ron Freeman. “The beauty of it is that it really balances us between Indiana and Ohio now."
“When you look at the map, we cover most of the northwest part of Ohio and then all of northern Indiana. From a map perspective, geographically, it works really well.”
The Party Mart locations are all in western Ohio, ranging as far north as Napoleon and as far east as Findlay. It includes the store at the southeast intersection of Butler Street (Ohio 129) and Elm Street (Ohio 49) in Fort Recovery. Jay Petroleum’s previous Pak-a-Sak footprint included locations stretching from Rensselaer to the west, Elkhart, Middlebury and Shipshewana to the north, and Parker City to the south in Indiana. It had five Ohio locations — two in Van Wert and one each in Fort Recovery, New Weston and Arcanum.
Ottawa Oil Company, which like Jay Petroleum was founded in 1959, and its Party Mart stores offer food services via Subway and Hunt Brothers Pizza.“The acquisition of Ottawa Oil Company is a milestone in our 61-year history,” said Kevin Huffman, who took over as president of the company following Freeman’s retirement, in a press release. Jay Petroleum’s largest prior acquisition came in 1998 when it bought out Huntington’s C&C Oil Company, which had 13 locations.
The sale has been in the works for more than a year, with Freeman saying the possibility came to Jay Petroleum’s attention in September 2019 when a broker reached out to gauge interest. Jay Petroleum, an employee stock ownership plan, decided to pursue the opportunity, becoming one of three finalists. Ottawa Oil, based in Ottawa, Ohio, about 60 miles east of Fort Wayne, chose Jay Petroleum in January. “We are profoundly grateful to our employees and the communities we have had the pleasure to serve,” said Ottawa general manager Janel Kruse in a press release. “Jay Petroleum’s track record for serving communities and history as an employee-owned company were very important factors in our selection of them.”
The purchase included all 22 Party Mart locations and most of the company’s other assets. The companies closed on the sale Dec. 3rd, 2020. “So this thing has taken the entire year to reach a closing,” said Freeman. “And most of that was because of COVID. It was so difficult for us to meet and it was very complicated.” Jim Peterson, who was Freeman’s father-in-law, founded Jay Petroleum in 1959. Its initial three locations were in Portland, Redkey, and Albany.
It was up to eight locations by the time Freeman joined the business in 1983 and has spent most of the last four decades building its Pak-a-Sak brand, which includes partnerships with Subway, Taco Bell, and Papa John’s. In addition to the growth to 57 retail locations, the purchase included Ottawa Oil Company’s headquarters in Ottawa. Jay Petroleum’s headquarters will remain on county road 200 West in rural Portland, but the company will have staff at both locations as it grows to more than 725 employees. Freeman said the expansion was important for Jay Petroleum in terms of its ability to work with petroleum and grocery suppliers.
“It’s a major leap forward because you just have to continue to grow in geographic space and in size so that in the industry you’re recognized as a player … because there are so many big chains out there,” he said. “It’s hard to compete in that space unless you’ve got geographic presence that people recognize. So it was very important for the company to make this jump forward.”