Crackerbox Foods of Hot Springs Selling to Valero

Last week the Magic 8-Ball said signs pointed to the sale of one of Arkansas' largest private companies.

That hazy reply is now getting clearer:

Sources tell Whispers that Crackerbox Food Stores of Hot Springs, which ranked 35th among Arkansas-based, Arkansas-owned private companies based on 2011 revenue of nearly $246 million, is being sold to Valero Retail Holdings of San Antonio.

Crackerbox, founded by Lewis M. Gardner and managed by his son, Lewis Ray "L.R." Gardner, operates 32 convenience stores from Russellville to Dermott. It already carries the Valero brand, so big changes are not anticipated.

That should be welcome news to the company's 285 employees.

How much is the deal worth? Whispers couldn't nail that down, and neither could the Magic 8-Ball. "Concentrate and ask again," it said.

We do know this: The Gardner family will retain ownership of its fuel-hauling company, Screamin' Eagle Transport.

Valero has about 1,000 convenience stores.