Davis in Bristol Farms Buyout

CARSON, Calif. Longtime Bristol Farms executive Kevin Davis, along with other executives at the chain and backed by an investment company, have acquired the 14-unit, upscale operator back from Minneapolis-based Supervalu. We really believe it is an opportunity to focus on our roots as an independent, locally owned, entrepreneurial private company, focusing on the local needs and expectations of our

CARSON, Calif. — Longtime Bristol Farms executive Kevin Davis, along with other executives at the chain and backed by an investment company, have acquired the 14-unit, upscale operator back from Minneapolis-based Supervalu.

“We really believe it is an opportunity to focus on our roots as an independent, locally owned, entrepreneurial private company, focusing on the local needs and expectations of our customers,” Davis told SN.

Davis, who is chairman, president and chief executive officer, has been with Bristol Farms for 14 years, remaining through the 2004 acquisition by Albertsons and subsequent acquisition of Albertsons by Supervalu. He along with Sam Masterson, executive vice president, and 16 other executives will have an equity interest in the chain in partnership with Los Angeles-based Endeavour Capital.

Terms of the sale, which was effective on Oct. 29, were not disclosed.

Bristol Farms operates 14 upscale, specialty stores, including one 19,000-square-foot natural and organic store under the Lazy Acres banner that it acquired in 2005. Most Bristol Farms stores are in the 14,000-20,000-square-foot range. Annual sales are estimated at more than $200 million, according to reports.

Although he declined to disclose specific details about the chain's financial performance, Davis said Bristol Farms has been generating positive same-store sales for the second half of the year. The company made some cost-cutting moves a year ago that enabled it to invest in lower pricing, which is helping drive volume, he explained. The chain generates more than 65% of sales from perishables, including more than 800 prepared-food items made in its central kitchen.

Davis said he approached Supervalu about buying the chain when it became clear that the banner was no longer a good fit for the company.

“Supervalu has always stated since they acquired Albertsons and particularly since [CEO] Craig Herkert has arrived that they were going to concentrate on their core competencies and their Save-A-Lot banner,” he said. “We are a fresh and specialty food operator, with high quality and service standards, that just doesn't fit with Supervalu's long-term growth plans.”

He said he believes there is “significant opportunity in the fresh, natural and organic and specialty areas, as evidenced by the growth of companies like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, among others.”

Stephen Babson, managing director in the food and consumer group at Endeavor Capital, told SN that the investment group likes the fact Bristol Farms has stayed close to its core shoppers.

“This is a California-based group of stores that is really in touch with its customers, and it really makes sense to bring ownership back to California,” he said. “Our investment is there to help the company do what it does best, which is to serve its core markets, but if there are opportunities for new stores, it will help them pursue those as well.”

Bristol Farms will continue to be supplied by Los Angeles-based Unified Grocers and other suppliers, including United Natural Foods Inc. The chain had not been supplied by Supervalu, which does not have distribution operations in Southern California.

Endeavour has several food- and retail-related investments, including a stake it acquired last year in Portland, Ore.-based New Seasons Market. Earlier this year, Endeavour sold an interest in Boise, Idaho-based discounter WinCo Foods.

In a prepared statement, Brian Huff, Supervalu senior vice president, specialty retail, said the sale will “allow Supervalu to operate more efficiently and effectively and focus on improving the shopping experience throughout its entire network of owned and supplied stores.”