“I’m a little corner convenience store,” says Cartwright, the owner of Douglas Lake Market in White Pine. “We have a deli and sell food because we’re on the lake and we’re a big fishing store. It’s my only store, it’s my livelihood, and I’m not going to say it didn’t hurt me, because I had to pay for that gas.”
She is among several dozen independent dealers regionwide who lost money when credit card purchases of gas at their stores kept going to Appco last winter, even after they were getting their gas from different “oil jobbers.” Out of Appco’s $8 million or so in unsecured debt, the amount they’re owed totals around $300,000.
Cartwright, for instance, paid her new supplier more than $6,000 when Exxon gas it supplied was credited to Appco’s account. Though Exxon had paid Appco for gas someone else supplied, Appco never paid Cartwright prior to its Feb. 9 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.
The bankruptcy court appointed Andy Weber as a “chief restructuring officer” April 14 and tasked him with trying to market and sell Appco for as much as possible. Appco owes its lender, Greystone Business Credit, more than $11 million, and that debt is “secured” — sale proceeds would go to Greystone first.
In a Chapter 11 case, all “pre-petition” debt is protected by an “automatic stay,” meaning creditors cannot pursue the money through legal action until the bankruptcy case runs its course.
Along with food vendors, utilities, landlords, lottery commissions, beer distributors, accounting firms and more, those mom and pop convenience stores like Douglas Lake Market are waiting to see if the outcome of Appco’s bankruptcy case leaves any money for them to collect part of what they’re owed. Chapter 11 cases that result in sales of companies or liquidation often leave unsecured creditors paid just pennies on the dollar, if anything, and Cartwright says she isn’t holding her breath.
“It would be nice to see it, but I’m not banking on it,” says Cartwright, who has operated the store for 17 years and is the mother of a 5-year-old. “It might restore my faith in the legal system, not to mention humanity.”