REAL ESTATE GROUP BUYS 11 VIRGINIA ACME STORES

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Acme Markets of Virginia, Tazewell, N.C., said it has agreed to sell the assets of its 11 stores to a limited partnership controlled by a real-estate company here that operates various grocery store groups in the Southeast and Midwest.The deal is expected to close in February.The partnership -- PWNC -- was formed by owners of Piedmont Center Properties Corp. here to acquire the Acme

RALEIGH, N.C. -- Acme Markets of Virginia, Tazewell, N.C., said it has agreed to sell the assets of its 11 stores to a limited partnership controlled by a real-estate company here that operates various grocery store groups in the Southeast and Midwest.

The deal is expected to close in February.

The partnership -- PWNC -- was formed by owners of Piedmont Center Properties Corp. here to acquire the Acme units. Piedmont also owns and operates three franchised Piggly Wiggly stores in North Carolina and seven licensed Save-A-Lot stores in Virginia and Ohio.

Although the three companies will share a common ownership, they will operate separately from each other, Roger Camp, president of Piedmont and chief executive officer of PWNC, told SN.

He said the addition of the 11 Acmes will boost Piedmont's grocery volume by $55 million to $60 million a year, to about $100 million.

"Acme did $75 million in 1999, and although sales fell off a little last year, the stores are in chain-quality condition and management is solid, particularly at store level," Camp said. "With just a few adjustments, we think we'll be able to bring sales and profits back up to their 1999 levels."

Camp said he will assume the title of interim president of Acme while seeking an executive to fill the post on a permanent basis. He will succeed Fred Kraegel, who has been interim president since last spring, when the company was put up for sale.

The Acmes -- including seven units in Virginia and four in West Virginia -- will operate under the name New Acme, Camp said. Seven other Acmes in South Carolina were sold last year to Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co., Charleston, S.C., and six in Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky were closed

Piedmont's three Piggly Wigglys, located in the Greensboro-Raleigh area of north-central North Carolina, are licensed by Piggly Wiggly, Memphis, an umbrella organization for franchised stores in 18 states. Camp said the stores average 35,000 square feet and are supplied by Fleming, Dallas; two additional Piggly Wiggly stores are under construction and one conversion is under way, all in North Carolina, he noted.

Four of Save-A-Lot stores are in Virginia and three are in Ohio. They are licensed and supplied by Supervalu, Minneapolis, and average 15,000 square feet, Camp said.

The Acmes average 40,000 square feet. Camp said the company is in discussions with suppliers to service the Acme stores.

Piedmont likes being in the grocery business, Camp said, "because the stores make money and they represent good real estate.

"We're intrigued by the grocery business, and we've been successful at it. And we have such good solid managements at the grocery companies we run that we can handle additional capacity."

He said Piedmont has agreed to purchase three of the seven shopping centers Acme owns, with the possibility of buying some of the others.

Piedmont also owns neighborhood shopping centers anchored by other grocery operators, Camp said, "so grocery is kind of a stepchild of the real estate business. But we've engaged in it enough and found it to be profitable enough to encourage us to try to do more.

"As we see real estate and grocery opportunities that look good, we will pursue them."

He said Piedmont used to own four stores in South Bend, Ind., called van Kamp's but sold them to Martin's Supermarkets, also of South Bend, four years ago.