TORONTO — The eight Super Fresh stores Mrs. Green's Management Co. is seeking to take over will be remade to include prepared foods and natural/organic selections, although the merchandise mix and a new brand identity for the stores is still under consideration, according to the chief executive of the Toronto-based retail group that acquired the stores at an auction last month.
In an exclusive interview with SN, Matt Williams, chief executive officer of Natural Market Restaurants, said the stores would likely include elements imported from its various retail concepts, including Mrs. Green's — a strict natural and organic chain based in Scarsdale, N.Y. — and Richtree Market, the market-style restaurant chain the company operates in Canada. He said a new concept currently under construction at a Skokie, Ill., shopping mall, Wilde & Greene, would also provide an idea of the company's vision for the Super Fresh stores.
Wilde & Greene, expected to open later this summer, is a 500-seat restaurant featuring various open-kitchen food stations and a retail food market that is replacing the food court at Westfield Old Orchard, an upscale shopping mall.
“We don't have a definite approach that we're willing to share at this moment,” Williams said. “But we're pretty experienced in natural and organic grocery, and we feel that these eight stores would all benefit from having not just a token appearance of natural and organic but a strong presence. We see a couple of the stores being entirely natural and organic.”
Some of the larger stores would likely include conventional groceries as well, he added. Williams said the company hoped to keep the stores open during their transition and that they would likely be rebranded as part of a transition of the company's other concepts.
The judge in A&P's bankruptcy case last week approved the purchase of some but not all of the stores. Regency Centers, the landlord of the Parkville, Md., Super Fresh set to be taken over by Mrs. Green's, was given more time to work on a resolution to its objection to the sale. Regency in its objection cited concerns about the credit-worthiness of the company.
The Parkville store was one of four that the judge did not yet approve for sale — the others are in Baltimore and Arnold, Md., bid on by Mrs. Green's, and a White Oak, Md., store bid on by Village Super Markets.
The stores that were approved for sale to Mrs. Green's are located in Cambridge, Chestertown, Charlestown and Brunswick, Md., and in Washington, D.C.
Other objections, including some from organized labor, were either settled or overruled last week.
Although Williams declined to provide specific financial information, court papers filed by A&P cited strong sales and profitability at Mrs. Green's, and the financial strength of its parent company, Catalyst Capital, Toronto.
A&P said Catalyst would be infusing at least $40 million to Mrs. Green's to support the $30 million purchase. “Catalyst has every incentive to dedicate the necessary resources to ensure this is a successful investment.”
A&P said Natural Market Restaurants had annual revenues of $137 million and EBITDA of $13 million in 2010. Mrs. Green's 11 stores accounted for around $44.5 million in sales. NMRC is projecting sales of $254 million and EBITDA of $22 million following the implementation of changes at the stores. “This EBITDA exceeds the EBITDA of the entire [25-store Super Fresh] Southern Store portfolio by a substantial amount,” A&P noted.
Williams told SN as a group the company has grown cash flow 58% in the past 12 months while maintaining a strong balance sheet with substantial room for growth.