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Published: Friday, 6/6/2003

Some Food Town stores to cut hours

BY BLADE BUSINESS STAFF
Supermarket at McCord and Angola roads is among 24 remaining in Food Town chain whose future is uncertain. Supermarket at McCord and Angola roads is among 24 remaining in Food Town chain whose future is uncertain.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

Some of the remaining 24 Food Town stores in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan will begin cutting store hours and phasing out Spartan brand merchandise in the next few weeks as owner Spartan Stores Inc. prepares to strip itself of the supermarket chain.

In meetings yesterday, managers of the eight Food Towns in Michigan and 16 in Ohio were told Spartan has yet to complete sales of any of the remaining stores to interested buyers, or made decisions on which, if any, it will close or convert to Pharm stores, people at the meetings told The Blade.

Several store managers contacted yesterday said they were given no new information about the fate of the stores.

However, sources familiar with the stores said Spartan is not close to resolving the ownership of 23 of the remaining 24 stores and that disposing of the supermarkets could take a month. Negotiations are continuing with several owners of independent supermarkets, plus major chains that include Kroger and Giant Eagle, sources said.

The company has been trying to sell the stores for at least three months, but has said some could be converted to Pharm discount drug stores.

Only the Food Town store in Willard, Ohio, has been sold. It is being purchased by Messler's IGA, of Willard.

Spartan has 26 Food Towns open, but said this week that two unprofitable stores in which there has been no prospective buyer interest will close in early July.

Those stores are in Temperance, Mich. and in Fostoria.

Meanwhile, Spartan spokesman Jeanne Norcross confirmed the Food Towns which had been open until midnight will close, beginning Sunday, at either 9 p.m. or 10 p.m., depending on location.

Starting next week, some stores will begin having price discounts on merchandise as the company apparently wants to whittle down its inventory in the groceries as a sale or closure nears.

As a further sign of operating more on a day-to-day basis, Spartan plans to reduce its weekly advertising supplements and rely on daily advertised specials.

Spartan, which acquired the former Seaway Food Town and Pharm chain in August, 2000, has struggled with the original 43-store Food Town chain for more than a year.

It closed five stores in October, 13 in April, and announced the two new ones this week.

The company said it will keep the Pharm chain.



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