'A good run': Ottawa-based Quickie Convenience Stores sold to MacEwen Petroleum

Arnold Kimmel
Nearly five decades after opening the first Quickie location, Arnold Kimmel is leaving the business he turned into an iconic fixture of the local retail scene. Photo by Mark Holleron

An iconic local retailer’s five-decade run as an independent entity has come to an end.

Quickie Convenience Stores, which operates 51 retail stores and 22 gas stations across eastern Ontario and western Quebec, has been acquired by Maxville-based MacEwen Petroleum, the companies said on Tuesday. Terms were not disclosed. 

Quickie co-founder Arnold Kimmel recently told OBJ that after nearly 50 years in the industry, he was ready to wind down his career. His business partner, Larry Hartman, has already retired, while his two children are successful executives in Toronto who have no interest in taking over the company.

“It’s been a good run,” the 75-year-old businessman and philanthropist said. “There’s no succession (plan), unfortunately. It’s time to move on.”

Kimmel said the parallels between his business and MacEwen – a family-owned enterprise that occupies a similar geographic footprint – made joining forces with the fellow eastern Ontario firm the right move. 

“I have to say, it’s the absolute perfect fit,” he said.

MacEwen president Peter MacEwen said the seeds of the transaction were sown last summer when his father Allan, who founded the firm that bears his name in 1976, had lunch with Kimmel. 

"We knew that Arnie was looking to exit at some point," he said. "We were interested in buying, and they were interested in selling to us."

Economies of scale

MacEwen said the deal will nearly double the number of convenience stores under his firm's control, providing greater economies of scale and giving stores more leverage with suppliers. He said the two companies can also learn from each other's best practices. 

"There's a lot of benefits there," he noted.

Since the first Quickie location opened at Shoppers City East in 1973, the stores have become a familiar fixture of the Ottawa retail landscape. 

"There’s no succession (plan), unfortunately. It’s time to move on."

After starting as a competitor to emerging convenience store chains such as 7-Eleven and Mac’s, Quickie evolved into a multi-faceted operation that sold gas and forged affiliations with fast-food giants such as Subway and McDonald’s. The chain’s dealer-owned network of stores now employs about 300 people.

The company eventually grew into the dominant convenience store player in the region, buying out 7-Eleven’s six Ottawa locations in 2009 while expanding across eastern Ontario and western Quebec. 

The firm also gained widespread recognition through initiatives such as the Tour de Quickie, a charity bicycle race it sponsored for several years in the late 1980s and 1990s that raised more than $2 million for local hospitals.

“I don’t think there’s a town that we’re in where we don’t make a significant contribution to something in the town,” Kimmel said. “It’s one of the cornerstones of our business is supporting the community. If the community supports us, we have to give back.”

Including the newly acquired Quickie stores, MacEwen now has a network of 108 company-controlled convenience stores and 85 dealer-managed gas stations across Ontario. MacEwen said all locations will be rebranded as Quickies in a bid to capitalize on a name familiar to generations of shoppers.

“It's highly recognized in Ottawa and eastern Ontario, so we wanted to build on that," he said.