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Published: Tuesday, 1/6/2004

Staff expects to learn fate of Farmer Jack stores today

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Employees of Farmer Jack Supermarkets in Toledo expect to learn today what the fate of the six local stores will be.

But even if the worst should happen and the Detroit-based company decides to close the stores, a local real-estate expert said there will be interest in the sites from others, and at least one local retailer said he is eyeing three of the stores.

I wouldn t say I m interested in them, I d say I m very interested in them, said Walt Churchill, Jr., chairman and chief executive offer of Churchill s Super Markets.

Mr. Churchill said his company, which he acknowledged last month is struggling to turn around a newer store in Monclova Township, would be interested in reacquiring three stores that Farmer Jack bought from Churchill s. They are are on Monroe Street in Sylvania, on Byrne Road in Toledo, and on Dixie Highway in Perrysburg. The Churchill family owns the land and building at the Byrne Road store.

I m looking to see what we could do to move things for Churchill s because we d like to get in position to move on the Perrysburg store for sure, if it became available,” he said. “We are interested in it, but the question is: Could we do it?

However, speculation about any sale is premature because Farmer Jack has not indicated what it will do with the stores, after retreating from telling the local union representing workers that it would sell some or all of the Toledo stores or convert them to a different format.

Jeff Stephens, president of Local 911, United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents about 750 workers at Farmer Jack in the Toledo area, said through a spokesman yesterday that the union knew nothing new since Friday. The union plans to meet with the company today.

A Farmer Jack spokesman said the firm is considering its options and hasn t yet made a decision, but expects one “shortly.”

Meanwhile, Dave Long, a commercial real estate expert at CB Richard Ellis/Reichle Klein in Maumee, said Giant Eagle supermarkets had expressed interest in two Farmer Jack locations last year. Other competitors may be interested in some of the six sites, given their good locations, he said.



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