JASPER, Ind. — Buehler Foods here told SN on Friday that its stores will continue to operate under the Buehler Buy-Low name following their sale to Houchens Industries, Bowling Green, Ky. The two companies signed a letter of intent last week for Buehler to sell its stores to Houchens following due diligence — a process expected to be completed in about 60 days. Buehler had not contemplated selling its 22 stores, "but when Houchens approached us, we thought it was a good fit," Kris Buehler Massat, president and chief executive officer, told SN. Houchens operates 140 conventional stores under several banners and 40 convenience stores, among other businesses, and had 2007 sales of $2 billion. Sales at Buehler totaled approximately $281.8 million, according to industry estimates. Buehler operates 16 stores in Indiana, five in Illinois and one in Kentucky. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection three years ago after debt from its purchase of 16 Winn-Dixies in Kentucky proved too burdensome. Under its 2006 reorganization plan, ownership passed from Dave Buehler, the founders' son, to Massat, his daughter, while the elder Buehler retained ownership of a group of Save-A-Lot stores. The company said it decided to sell because of "continuing pressures in the retail marketplace, our ongoing need for growth and expansion and the future of our 1,500-plus associates." With the sale "[those] associates will be provided long-term opportunities in a way that today's environment has prevented us from doing." Houchens executives could not be reached for comment.
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