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PORTLAND, Ore. - Robert Miller, chairman of Rite Aid Corp. and the former chief executive of Kroger's Fred Meyer division, is investing in two independent grocery stores in his residence of Portland, Ore.
Miller and a private investor group acquired the Bales Thriftway outlets, which are two of Washington County's largest independently owned groceries, located in the Cedar Mill and Aloha areas outside Portland. The stores are 50,000 square feet and 44,000 square feet, respectively. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.
The stores are members of the Thriftway-labeled marketing group, largely supplied by Unified Western Grocers. Together, they employ about 300 people.
Jeff Menashe, managing partner of the Demeter Group, which acted as the exclusive financial advisor to Miller in connection with the transaction, told Progressive Grocer this is Miller's first investment in a supermarket company. "Miller has long considered the Portland marketplace ripe for an independent chain with an upscale format and a focus on local consumer needs. This presented itself as a great opportunity," said Menashe.
Menashe noted that the investment represents what could become a "platform for future growth" in Oregon, either by future acquisitions or new stores. "There will be opportunities for this to grow into a five- to 10-unit company," he said.
Miller tapped Robin L. Thomas, a former partner at the Demeter Group, to serve as c.e.o. of the new company, said Menashe. Thomas, whose family at one time owned one of the largest independent grocers in Oregon, formerly served as s.v.p. and president of Unified Western Grocer's Oregon division. Before that he was v.p. of sales for United Grocers.
Miller, a former chairman and c.e.o. at Fred Meyer, stepped down as Rite Aid's chief executive last year. He remains chairman.
-- Jenny McTaggart