FOODTOWN HEADING TO FLORIDA

AVENEL, N.J. - A buyer of four former Winn-Dixie stores in Florida plans to reopen them under the auspices of the Foodtown cooperative here.Esmail Mobarak, who as president of Mt. Vernon, N.Y.-based Mach Markets owns three Foodtown stores in New York, was the winning bidder for four former Winn-Dixie stores auctioned last month. According to Foodtown officials, Mobarak plans to reopen them under the

AVENEL, N.J. - A buyer of four former Winn-Dixie stores in Florida plans to reopen them under the auspices of the Foodtown cooperative here.

Esmail Mobarak, who as president of Mt. Vernon, N.Y.-based Mach Markets owns three Foodtown stores in New York, was the winning bidder for four former Winn-Dixie stores auctioned last month. According to Foodtown officials, Mobarak plans to reopen them under the Foodtown banner - which would be the first such stores in Florida.

Details of the agreement with Foodtown were not finalized as of last week, Peter Lavoy, president and chief operating officer of the cooperative, told SN. Mobarak would prefer to operate the stores as part of the Foodtown cooperative, Lavoy said, but if that were unfeasible, he would license the name from Foodtown.

"We're trying to figure out the best way to handle it, mainly the communications that would be necessary," Lavoy told SN. Lavoy said he was in Florida late last month to meet with local wholesalers - Southeast Wholesale Foods and Associated Grocers of Florida, both based in Miami - to serve the stores.

Mobarak was not available for comment last week, but was quoted in the Florida Today newspaper as saying the stores were "very suitable for the Foodtown program" and would be tailored to their local neighborhoods. He said he hoped to open them by September.

Foodtown currently has 60 locations in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court last week approved the sale of the stores, located in West Palm Beach, Plantation, Davie and Merritt Island. They were purchased for a total of $2.5 million by Sunrise Properties, an Oviedo, Fla.-based firm whose president is Mobarak.

The stores were among 35 locations slated for sale or closure earlier this year by Winn-Dixie, the Jacksonville, Fla.-based retailer currently operating under Chapter 11 protection. The Davie store, which opened in 1977 and sold for $1.05 million, generated the highest price of all the stores sold in the auction. Sunrise will pay $300,000 for each of the stores in West Palm Beach and Plantation, and $5,000 for the Merritt Island location, court papers said.

Mach Markets owns Foodtown stores in Mt. Vernon, Riverdale and Staten Island, N.Y.