Equity firm acquires Kilwins

Mar. 5—PETOSKEY — A Los Angeles-based private equity firm just sweetened its portfolio.

Levine Leichtman Capital Partners acquired Kilwin's Quality Confections, Inc. and Kilwins Chocolates Franchise, Inc. in late February, according to a release from the firm.

Founded in 1947 and headquartered in Petoskey, Kilwins has been owned by Robin and Don McCarty since 1979.

The McCartys will retain an ownership interest in Kilwins, which LLCP called "a leading franchisor, retailer, manufacturer and distributor of premium quality chocolate, ice cream and confectionary products," according to the release.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Kilwins operates more than 150 locations across 25 states, the majority of which are franchised operations.

Mary and Brian Daily have been the franchise operators of the Traverse City location at 129 E. Front St. since 1979.

Mary Daily said Thursday morning the sale won't have much — if any — affect on the TC store.

"We've been downtown here for 50 years and we'll probably be here for another 50 years," she said. "So you can still get all of your treats."

Levine Leichtman Capital Partners is "a leading private equity investor in the franchising and multi-unit sector, having invested in more than 25 brands through its history," according to the release.

Some of the LLCP food-related businesses include Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Mountain Mike's Pizza, Nothing Bundt Cakes, Wetzel's Pretzels and Global Franchise Group.

A request to the Kilwins corporate office to interview Don McCarty about the acquisition was "politely decline(d) ... at this time" by email. A call to the Petoskey store at 1050 Bay View Road was referred to Levine Leichtman.

In the release from Levine Leichtman, Don McCarty said the store operators and employees are the reason behind its success.

"It has been a joy for Robin and I to have been a part of this company for the last 43 years," Don McCarty said in the release. "Our caring, loyal franchisees are the basis of our long-term success, and the Kilwins team has made incredible products, built an exceptional platform and has successfully created meaningful and lasting experiences for our customers.

"As we look to the company's future, we are confident that LLCP has the resources and franchise experience to lead Kilwins in its next phase of growth, and will provide dynamic, thoughtful and strong customer focus and leadership."

"Kilwins has an incredible brand proposition, a compelling product portfolio, and a loyal customer base," LLCP Partner Andrew Schwartz said in the release. "We are strong believers in the long-term potential of Kilwins and are excited to work closely with the company's management team to accelerate growth through continued franchise expansion, new channel opportunities and additional product innovation."

Kilwins "is the third platform investment of LLCP Lower Middle Market Fund III, (Limited Partnership)," according to the release.