Natural Foods Merchandiser

Larry's Markets sold

Larry's Markets, the six-store Seattle-area upscale grocery chain, found a buyer for five of its six struggling stores in August after filing for bankruptcy protection in May. The buyers are Michael Teel and Michael Ashker, principals with LM Acquisition Partners LLC. Teel served as president and CEO of Raley's, the California grocery chain his grandfather founded. Ashker is a principal in an investment firm and recently has focused on the natural and organic area. "We plan to expand the natural and organic sections [of Larry's Markets], and focus on fresh prepared foods," Teel said.

At press time, the $5.5 million sale was expected to take place at the end of August after a short period of open bids in bankruptcy court. During this time other parties may submit offers, but in bankruptcy court the initial buyer is usually successful, said David Marriott, a spokesman for Larry's.

As part of the bankruptcy proceedings, all Larry's employees will be required to reapply for their jobs. Though Ashker said they plan on investing capital to make changes to the stores, he said they hope to keep the same strong employee base.

"Their real challenge has been undercapitalization, which in turn caused them to fall behind the curve," Ashker said. "We plan to reinvent, revitalize and eventually regain the position of prominence that Larry's Markets once held in the local community. Larry's is all about Seattle, and through investment and lots of hard work we are determined to make Larry's the local favorite again."Mark McKinney, chief executive officer of Larry's Markets, said: "This sale allows Larry's Markets to remain in existence and to continue providing quality groceries to its loyal customers. We couldn't be happier to have this group as the new owners of Larry's."

Larry's Markets began in 1964 and now has stores in Redmond, Bellevue, Kirkland, Tukwila and two in Seattle. Larry's is still negotiating with a possible buyer for the Tukwila location.

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