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SHEBOYGAN, Wis. -- Certified Grocers Midwest has no immediate intention to sell or close any stores it acquired in a deal for Fresh Brands, according to local reports. Instead, the new owners are looking to expand the chain and keep its headquarters intact.
"We are looking to grow the company," said Paul Butera, chairman of Certifresh Holdings Inc. -- a holding company created by Certified Grocers Midwest Inc. for the acquisition of Fresh Brands, in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Butera added that he was upset by speculation that Certifresh would spin off the acquired Piggly Wiggly and Dick's stores because it is a food wholesaler.
Butera added that Certifresh had asked Fresh Brands to put on hold plans to close two underperforming corporate stores in 2006. "They may not be making money at this time, but that doesn't mean they're not good stores," said Butera.
Certifresh plans to expand the former Fresh Brands chain with new stores between here and Chicago, either through acquisition or by building stores. Butera said improving the deli and produce departments are top priorities for Certifresh's newly acquired stores.
"Our goal is to make them bigger and better," said Butera, who also owns 10 Butera Markets in northern Illinois. "We're not happy with the deli. Ours are twice the size." Fresh Brands' new owners also want to offer lower prices on fresh produce, he added.
The ownership change at Fresh Brands will find Louis Stinebaugh, c.o.o., leaving the company. Named as his replacement is Ken Koester, president and c.e.o. of Certified Grocers Midwest. Koester led Certified for four years, and worked in retail for 20 years before that. His experience includes stints as a c.f.o. in turnaround and restructuring situations, although Koester said he doesn't view Fresh Brands as a turnaround.