EXPANSION TO FOLLOW BRISTOL FARMS BUYOUT

TORRANCE, Calif. -- Bristol Farms Gourmet Specialty Food Markets, based here, plans to add up to six new stores to its three-store base over the next two years.The expansion will be fueled by the recently announced acquisition of the privately held -- and much admired -- retailer by Kidd, Kamm & Co., a Beverly Hills, Calif., investment group.The deal is expected to be complete this month. Bristol

TORRANCE, Calif. -- Bristol Farms Gourmet Specialty Food Markets, based here, plans to add up to six new stores to its three-store base over the next two years.

The expansion will be fueled by the recently announced acquisition of the privately held -- and much admired -- retailer by Kidd, Kamm & Co., a Beverly Hills, Calif., investment group.

The deal is expected to be complete this month. Bristol Farms, which has annual sales of about $50 million, declined to comment on the terms of the deal.

As part of the move, Louis Kwiker, a retail consultant for Kidd Kamm, will become chairman and chief executive officer of Bristol Farms. Irv Gronsky, the current owner and president who opened the upscale grocer's first store in 1982, will remain a full participant in the company's operations and will serve as vice chairman, the company said.

No additional management changes are expected, the company said. "This is very exciting," Gronsky told SN. "I can't think of too many times when businesses are sold and greeted with such welcome news from the seller. I'm going to enjoy the growing," he said.

Kwiker could not be reached for comment.

The company hopes to open four to six new units during the next two years, Gronsky said, and is currently evaluating sites, with an eye on existing supermarket properties for conversion. The stores will be about 30,000 square feet and will feature separate housewares sections in addition to the upscale mix of fresh foods and specialty grocery items, Gronsky said.

Bristol Farms had not been seeking investors. Rather, Kidd Kamm approached Bristol Farms. Kwiker, Gronsky said, had been a Bristol Farms customer for 12 years.

Bristol Farms now operates stores in Rolling Hills Estates, South Pasadena and Manhattan Beach, all in the Los Angeles area. The stores have a heavy emphasis on service and quality, and have become destination spots for shoppers as well as fresh foods executives looking for new merchandising ideas.

Pizza, pasta and sushi, as well as Chinese dishes, are regular features of the stores, which offer a few household items for customer convenience. The bakeries are scratch operations, and a wide range of fresh foods, from salads and soups and dips to entrees, are prepared in-house. Gronsky said the existing on-site kitchens will be expanded. He said he did not envision building a stand-alone commissary to centrally supply the stores.

The company employs about 1,000 people, said Jodi Taylor, director of advertising and marketing at Bristol Farms.

The biggest challenge for expansion will be maintaining the company's high level of service and quality, both Taylor and an industry observer told SN. "If they stay true to what they've done so far, they're going to be successful," said the observer, who called Bristol Farms "the epitome of fresh food."

He added: "If they grow faster than they are able to train people to do what they are doing now, they will be in trouble."

The new chairman, Kwiker, is a former president and CEO of Wherehouse Entertainment, a West Coast video retailer.

Gronsky said Kwiker brings to the food retailer experience in training programs, which will be key for the expansion. Service will remain an essential ingredient in the Bristol Farms concept, Gronsky told SN. "There is so little service available today in the food retailing business that we feel it is one of our niches."