The Maritime Farms townline convenience store, one of two locations in Rockland and one of 13 total locations in Maine that were sold to a Georgia company in December. Credit: Courtesy of Maritime Energy

The recent sale of 13 Maritime Farms convenience stores to a Georgia-based company is the latest in a national consolidation trend and marks the third Maine energy company to sell its convenience stores in the past 15 years.

Family-owned Maritime Energy, which sold its convenience store operations concentrated in the midcoast, cited a need to focus on its core energy business. It said both businesses have grown strongly since they started.

“Forty to 50 years ago it was pretty typical for energy companies to get into convenience stores because it rounded out their business, with the energy company typically busy in the winter and the stores in the summer,” Charon Curtis, vice president at Maritime responsible for the store operations, said.

The company started with a couple locations, but now that both businesses have grown significantly, Maritime is focusing on the energy part of the business. The 83-year-old company’s stores range from Newcastle to Searsport, with two each in Rockport and Rockland.

Convenience stores have been under pressure recently with a workforce shortage and higher gas prices, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores. It said 148,026 convenience stores were operating in the U.S. at the end of 2021, down 1.5 percent from the close of 2020.

Convenience stores sell about 80 percent of the motor fuels purchased in the country. But they rely on in-store sales to drive profits, the association said. Higher gas prices over the past year hurt customer traffic in stores and caused people to buy less.

Curtis said the convenience store retail business and the energy service business are very different. Maritime Energy will continue doing business with buyer Majors Management of Georgia to supply fuels to the stores.

Maritime’s President Susan Ware Page called the purchase by Majors “the best match to continue to put our people first, care for the properties and set the stage to lead the business into the future.”

The purchase by Majors, which closed last week, marks that company’s entry into Maine and its fourth acquisition of a total of 30 convenience stores in four states since early November. Majors and its affiliates also supply fuel to more than 1,300 convenience store locations in the U.S.

The acquisition also follows the 2016 purchase of 13 businesses of Manchester-based J&S Oil, including eight Xpress Stop convenience stores with fuel, by Nouria Energy of Massachusetts. In 2008, Webber Energy Fuels of Bangor began selling off its retail gas stations and convenience stores to Irving Oil of New Brunswick, citing a need to focus on its core heating oil and propane businesses.