Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. subsidiary Circle K Stores Inc. will buy 53 Cracker Barrel convenience store sites in Louisiana, mostly in the Baton Rouge market but also around south Louisiana, held by American General Investments LLC and North American Financial Group LLC.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Couche-Tard said it expects to complete the acquisition by the end of January. The stores will be rebranded and operated as Circle K locations.

Cracker Barrel officials did not return repeated phone calls. But Chris Sadler, owner of Cracker Barrel, told Convenience Store News his company is exiting the retail gasoline business. Sadler said the decision was a difficult one, but his family is looking forward to exploring new business opportunities. 

"We have a significant amount of respect for Circle K and have confidence that they will be a responsible steward of Cracker Barrel's legacy in the community and continue to treat our customers and employees with the highest levels of respect," Sadler told Convenience Store News.

The convenience stores are now branded Cracker Barrel and include 12 quick-service restaurants, including locations of Church's Chicken, Blimpie and Subway. Of the 53 sites, Couche-Tard would own the land and building for 47 locations and would assume or enter into leases for the remaining six locations.

The deal gives Couche-Tard's Gulf Coast region Circle K division 638 company-operated stores, eight company-owned and dealer-operated stores, and 54 dealer-owned and -operated stores.

Couche-Tard, based in Laval, Québec, is a leader in the Canadian convenience store industry. The company has close to 8,000 stores in North America. 

Cracker Barrel was founded in 1968 when Frank Sadler and Don Landers opened a convenience store at Millerville Road and Old Hammond Highway in Baton Rouge. The chain was a leader in forming partnerships with fast-food brands such as Church's and Blimpie.

"The mating up with branded fast foods was a big change for us," Sadler said in a 1998 interview with The Advocate. "But we were selling food at Cracker Barrels right from the start. We had barbecue machines, and got into boiled seafood in a big way."

In 1985, Cracker Barrel bought a gasoline truck and started distributing fuel. The company distributes Shell and Chevron gasoline along with its own branded fuel. The company also opened its own money order business, National Express Money Orders.

Advocate business writers Ted Griggs and Timothy Boone contributed to this story.