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Local APPCO station still faces uncertainty

In yet another series of twists and turns, APPCO convenience stores in northeast Tennessee once again face an unknown future as owner Florida Sunshine Investments has recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Greeneville, Tennessee.
To briefly recap the history associated with APPCO stores, in September of 2007, Titan Global Holdings paid $30 million for 58 convenience stores that were a part of the APPCO chain. Titan later filed bankruptcy in February of 2009. In September of the same year, a number of APPCO stores were saved from closing when it was sold to Florida Sunshine Investments, also referred to as Sunshine Energy, for a fee of $6.25 million. This purchase included 47 stores.
Even though currently owned by Sunshine Energy, APPCO’s previous owner, Jim MacLean, still has interest in 28 of these properties through Management Properties, Inc. (MPI). The stores in northeast Tennessee include four within Johnson City, two in Gray, seven stores between Bristol, Virginia and Bristol, Tennessee, one in each of the following: Elizabethton, Kingsport, Blountville, Erwin, Piney Flats, Roan Mountain, Mountain City, Rogersville and seven locations in Southwestern Virginia. MPI continues to own the land and the buildings while Florida Sunshine owns the actual businesses. All APPCO properties are leased by Sunshine Energy. Earlier this month, MacLean began re-claiming some of these properties, closing 12 of the APPCO stores. It has been reported that Sunshine Energy has been repeatedly late with their rent payments, have failed to repair and maintain their buildings, and are delinquent with their 2009 real estate taxes.
Sunshine Energy filed for bankruptcy approximately one week after MPI began repossessing 12 of their convenience stores. The bankruptcy filing granted an automatic stay that will keep MPI from closing any more store locations that they currently own. Judge Marcia Parsons ruled this past week that MPI can keep the 12 store buildings they claimed earlier this month. According to various reports, MPI plans to gain control of the additional APPCO properties while attempting to find another financially soluble company to operate these stores. However, at this time, the future of the remaining 16 stores is unknown, including the store location in Mountain City. Attempts by The Tomahawk to reach a representative of Sunshine Energy have been unsuccessful.
While attached to the local APPCO store on 421, Burger King is in no way affiliated with the on-going APPCO situation. The local Burger King is a franchise owned by Ridge Runner Fast Food. Referring to APPCO in Mountain City, Beth Westphal, franchisee, stated in a recent telephone interview, “They are a totally separate company. We are an independent operator of a Burger King franchise that leases from the APPCO facility.” More than 30 employees work at the Burger King on 421. Burger King maintains their own facility and property, maintaining and landscaping their side of the APPCO building. Westphal stressed that Mountain City’s Burger King will remain open, regardless of the future of the local APPCO.