GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Fresh Market  said Wednesday that it had agreed to take over the leases of four locations of Houston-based specialty foods chain Rice Epicurean Markets, and would convert the stores to The Fresh Market banner some time next year.
The deal will result in the first Texas locations for The Fresh Market, the company, based here, said. Financial terms were not disclosed.
The leases in the transaction are for Rice locations in the Uptown/Tanglewood, Memorial, River Oaks and West University areas of Houston. The Briargrove location was not part of the agreement and will continue to operate under the Rice Epicurean banner.
Read more: Fresh Market Boosts Outlook 
Founded more than 75 years ago and still run by the Levy and Freidlander families, Rice Epicurean will continue as landlords for the Fresh Market stores, Bruce Levy, executive vice president, told SN. “Our family had been on two tracks for a long time — the grocery track and the real estate track — and at this point our family will be pursuing the real estate track,” Levy said. “We’ve always loved the grocery business and will continue to love the grocery business, but we also know these locations are first-class locations and the real estate is very good. The market continues to change, and this is a part of that.”
Levy said The Fresh Market was a good successor for the locations “because we think they will continue to serve our customers well.”
“We are excited to expand into Texas, and into Houston in particular," Craig Carlock, The Fresh Market's president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We look forward to introducing The Fresh Market's concept of quality perishable food, excellent customer service and unique shopping atmosphere to a new set of customers, and we look forward to offering our new neighbors a distinctive food shopping experience, one that we think cannot be beaten.”
Rice Epicurean will operate the four stores through the end of the year, after which they will be closed and remodeled. The Fresh Market said it planned to reopen them in the second half of 2013.
The Fresh Market’s smaller footprint — its stores average 21,000 square feet while the stores it will occupy range from 25,000 to 42,000 square feet — will provide Rice with incremental shop space it intends to lease to other tenants, Levy said.
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