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    Carter's Food Centers Shuts Down

    CHARLOTTE, Mich. -- Carter's Food Centers here has apparently closed all of its 14 stores located throughout northern and central Michigan this week, according to published reports.

    CHARLOTTE, Mich. -- Carter's Food Centers here has apparently closed all of its 14 stores located throughout northern and central Michigan this week, according to published reports.

    Although officials of the grocery chain aren't talking, speculation is rampant in the communities in which Carters operates about the future of the stores. Rumors of the company's financial woes began surfacing two weeks ago when it became apparent that the stores' inventory was not being replenished.

    While three Carter's Food Centers in the Gladwin County area closed for business last week, a co-owner of the buildings in Gladwin, Edenville and Beaverton told a local newspaper he hopes to find a new tenant to operate them as grocery stores under a different name. ''We would like to get them open as soon as possible,'' said Robert Fruchey, whose family leases the stores to Carter's Foods. The Frucheys once ran the sites as IGAs.

    Fruchey said the family decided to close the buildings on Monday because Carter's is behind on rent payments. The store's inventory is being maintained until some sort of agreement is reached with the company. ''All we're asking is that they pay the rent, then we'll open back up and sell the inventory,'' Fruchey was quoted as saying.

    Carter's Foods officials have not made any public announcements about the fate of the stores, but local observers feel their demise is imminent.

    In late June, a U.S. District Judge ruled Carter's Foods was liable for $940,916 in unpaid invoices owned to Grand Rapids-based produce supplier J.A. Besteman Co. dating back to 2003.

    Last month, Carter's primary supplier, Minneapolis-based Nash Finch, said it would take a charge of up to $8.5 million to reflect the obligations of an unidentified customer, but observers believe the account is likely Carter's.

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