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Crenco Food Stores sold

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Hal Crenshaw sells company to large Virginia-based chain

By Mark Manicone

Hal Crenshaw has sold one of Lancaster County’s most recognizable small businesses, Crenco Food Stores, which grew out of the company his father started a half century ago.
The group of five convenience stores was purchased this week by Virginia-based GPM Southeast, the sixth-largest private owner of convenience stores in the country.
The sale has been in the works for months – GPM applied for beer and wine permits several weeks ago – but Crenshaw had refused to talk about it until the transaction was completed.
“I was taught a long time ago that the deal ain’t done until the money’s in the bank,” Crenshaw said Thursday.
The decision to sell was emotional, he said, because the business has always been at the heart of his family.
Crenshaw’s father, Harold Crenshaw Sr., started Crenshaw Plumbing and Heating in the 1960s. It became Crenshaw Oil Co. late in that decade and eventually expanded to include Crenco Food Stores in 1980.
“We first want to thank the good Lord, for he has blessed us,” Crenshaw said, fighting back tears. “And we want to thank the people of Lancaster, York and Chester counties for all the years of doing business with us.”
The Crenco chain includes five convenience stores. Three are in Lancaster County, on South Main Street, S.C. 9 Bypass West near Duracell and U.S. 521 at Shiloh Unity Road near Lancaster Speedway. The others are truck stops long the I-77 corridor in York County and Richburg.
Crenshaw Oil was not sold, but will no longer be in business, he said. That company’s only business was to supply the Crenco stores with gasoline and diesel fuel. The corporate office on Lynwood Drive will remain in Crenshaw’s ownership.
The company has been under Hal Crenshaw’s ownership since 2010, when he bought the shares of his father and sister, Jodi Elliot.
When handing the reins to his children, Crenshaw Sr. told his son something he would never forget.
“He said, ‘I’m going home. You can either run it, or run it into the ground,’” Crenshaw said.
Crenshaw and his wife, Tami, raised their three children in Lancaster, and they grew along with the company.
“After our third child, our son Garrett, was born, right after I got out of the hospital I went right to the office to do payroll,” said Tami Crenshaw. “The string that’s hanging from the ceiling, he used to try to jump and reach it. Now, he’s 6-5 and has to move to avoid it.
“We got to watch him grow up here,” she said.
The Crenshaws have been married for 37 years, and have been involved in the company since they started working.
“We’ve been together since I was 15 and he was 16,” Tami Crenshaw said. “I can remember his sister, Jodi, asking me to help out and work here, and I’ve been involved ever since.”
They are no strangers to success. In 2017, the S.C. Association of Convenience Stores named Crenco its Retailer of the Year.
Hal Crenshaw said government regulations had been hard on small businesses in recent years, and they influenced his decision to sell.
For example, the Affordable Care Act required businesses with more than 50 full-time workers to provide health insurance. In response, Crenshaw said, his company had to cut back workers’ hours and move many onto part-time status from full-time work.
That factored into his decision-making with GPM Southeast, he said, because they are a large company that could give his employees more pay and a chance for advancement. GPM owns about 1,400 convenience stores in 10 states.
“We took a lot of considerations in this deal,” Crenshaw said. “We could’ve sold out to anyone, but that’s not how I am.
“It’s important to me to leave a legacy to the employees and give them a company where they could continue to work and grow,” he said.
Another stipulation of the deal, he said, was that the corporate chaplain the Crenshaws hired for their employees would stay available to them.
About six months ago, they brought on a corporate chaplain through Corporate Chaplains of America, to serve any employees who needed that service.
“We had employee have a death in the family and they didn’t have anyone to do the service, so the chaplain went and did it,” Crenshaw said. “It’s something that’s totally voluntary and confidential, and we’ve had two employees saved already.
“And I said at the beginning of this that if we saved one person, it’s all worth it,” he added.
The Crenshaws made it a point to give back to the community. The company sponsored many recreational teams, like Dixie youth, as well as local school teams.
“He gave time to the schools any time he could,” Tami Crenshaw said.
They raised thousands of dollars for charitable organizations including Partners for Youth and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
“I hope that people will value what we’ve done here through the years, just as I value how they let us do it,” Hal Crenshaw said.
Now that the business is sold, the Crenshaws said, they’re mostly looking forward to downtime with their three children and multiple grandkids, as well as being a part of more church activities.
“I’ll be doing things with my children and a little bit of what I want to do, as long as she’ll let me,” Hal Crenshaw said, motioning toward his wife with a smile.

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Follow reporter Mark Manicone on Twitter @mark_manicone or contact him at (803) 283-1152.