SMITH'S NORTHERN CALIFORNIA REAL ESTATE ON SELLING BLOCK

SALT LAKE CITY -- Smith's Food & Drug Centers here said it is looking to sell unused real estate in northern California.rn California are on the block.Smith's operates 33 stores in southern California and is scheduled to open its 34th in Yucca Valley in a few weeks. It also has a 981,000-square-foot distribution and processing facility in Riverside, Calif., which opened in 1994. It has no stores in

SALT LAKE CITY -- Smith's Food & Drug Centers here said it is looking to sell unused real estate in northern California.

rn California are on the block.

Smith's operates 33 stores in southern California and is scheduled to open its 34th in Yucca Valley in a few weeks. It also has a 981,000-square-foot distribution and processing facility in Riverside, Calif., which opened in 1994. It has no stores in northern California.

The company confirmed that northern California sites were "being marketed," although it would not say how many were for sale.

Observers told SN the company is shopping at least 15 unused pieces of real estate in the northern region, as well as four unused pieces of real estate in southern California.

Those observers also said Smith's efforts to sell the northern California sites have been hampered by a drop in real-estate prices.

The company's desire to sell the northern California sites is an acknowledgement of a cutback in the chain's once aggressive plans to expand from southern California into the central and northern parts of the state by 1997, observers said.

A sale of the southern California properties, however, could signal a lack of long-range expansion plans in the area for Smith's -- or it could simply mean that Smith's has put expansion plans for the region on hold for another year or two, according to observers. Smith's entered southern California in 1991 with an ambitious expansion program that anticipated 60 stores in the region by 1994 and 60 more in central and northern California by 1997. However, the southern California recession forced the chain to lower its expectations, and in early 1994 Smith's said it would stop construction in southern California to give operating management an opportunity to fine-tune and improve operations there.