Taking Stock

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Local Notes

Private equity firms Leonard Green and Partners and CVC Capital Partners, who own club operators BJ’s, are reportedly looking for a way to unload the investment which they acquired in 2011 for $2.8 billion. Given that six years is within the framework of a PE “dump” this potential move shouldn’t be surprising. Certainly the inroads that Amazon and now Wal-Mart have made against all club operators offer another potential reason for BJ’s to find a new home, too. The Wall Street Journal reports that the Natick, MA-based merchant is looking at either a sale or a possible IPO. BJ’s, which operates 213 units primarily on the East Coast (and Ohio), was a publicly-traded enterprise before its purchase by Green and CVC …it looks like May 18 will be ribbon-cutting day for Lidl’s debut in the U.S. with 10 stores reportedly set to open on that day in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Sources have told us that Lidl will cluster 10 store openings every few weeks thereafter and hopes to have approximately 100 stores open by the end of 2017. Corporately, the German discounter’s parent firm (Schwarz Group) has named a new chief executive, Jesper Hojer. The Danish-born Hojer, who has worked for Lidl for more than a decade, replaces Sven Seidel who became Lidl’s CEO in March 2014. And Lidl’s chief discount rival in Europe (and soon-to-be in the U.S.), Aldi said it will spend $1.6 billion to remodel its 1,300 U.S. stores. Aldi’s new redesigned model, which now exists in about 300 units, features wider aisles, raised ceilings, sleeker refrigerated doors and windows and more natural lighting. The new store design adds about 20 percent more floor space (to about 20,000 square feet) and an expanded perishables presence…it looks like Stop & Shop is attempting to enter the apartment building business. In a filing with the Boston Planning and Development Agency, the biggest division of Ahold USA is seeking permission to redevelop its existing store at 60 Everett Street in the Allston section of the city. As part of a broader plan, called Allston Yards, Stoppie would also build 1,010 residential units (apartments) and offer office space and ground floor retail and restaurant space. “Stop & Shop has been proud to call Boston our home for over a century and we believe that Allston Yards project represents a terrific opportunity for us to better serve the neighborhood and community,” said the talented Mark McGowan, president of Stoppie. About four miles away in now semi-gentrified Somerville, MA, another Ahold USA banner, bfresh, cut the ribbon on a new location. The 11,000 square foot perishables and prepared foods-oriented store is only AUSA’s third unit under the bfresh banner, which I find disappointing since the initial concept store first opened in Center City Philadelphia in late 2014 (Everything Fresh) and the first bfresh debuted nearly two and a half years ago in Allston…the first new ShopRite corporate store (SRS) under the helm of Brett Wing (who was named president of ShopRite Supermarkets last month) will open in North Greenbush, NY (Rennselaer County) later this year. The 55,000 square foot store will be SRS’ fourth Albany area location. The corporate store arm of Wakefern Corp. currently operates 34 supermarkets overall. More Wakefern news: at last month’s FMI Midwinter Executive Conference, chairman and CEO Joe Colalillo was presented with the Robert B. Wegman award, which was given to the supermarket executive for “exercising entrepreneurial leadership in the design of retail strategies and imaginative merchandising.” This honor is much deserved because Joe’s vision and leadership skills are unparalleled in an industry with so much talent. Plus, he’s one of the really good guys in the entire grocery biz…Tawa Supermarket, Inc., opened its first East Coast unit late last month. The 60,000 square foot former Pathmark unit in Edison, NJ now flies the company’s retail banner – 99 Ranch. In October 2015, the Buena Park, CA-based retailer, which operates 42 other 99 Ranch units on the West Coast and Texas, acquired three stores at the A&P bankruptcy auction. Another unit in Jersey City is expected to open in the next few weeks and the store it purchased in Hackensack, NJ is slated to open later this spring…Kroger has bought a controlling interest in the legendary Murray’s Cheese flagship location on Bleecker Street in Manhattan’s West Village. Kroger and Murray’s have enjoyed a partnership since 2008 and today there are 350 cheese shops inside Kroger stores. It’s seems like a great deal for both parties, providing financial security for Murray’s owner Rob Kaufelt (whose dad Stanley Kaufelt, founder of Mayfair Super Markets, was an iconic figure in the supermarket industry) and permanent control of an influential brand for Kroger…brave man award of the month goes to Robert Beck III of Conewago Township, PA, who  after seeing a deer crash through the window at a Giant/Carlisle store in Manchester Township, PA, wrestled the  ruminant doe to the ground and prevented it from barreling into the  supermarket’s glass-enclosed bakery case. “When I seen it, it was game on,” said Beck (apparently in his best Pennsyl-tucky English). Beck grabbed the deer by the neck, and with the help of two other patrons, was able to lead it outside the store…according to the New York Post, in an effort to trim operational costs after its emergence from bankruptcy last July, Fairway Market is considering selling the prepared foods commissary and bakery distribution center in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx which opened in 2010. The “like no other market” merchant, which debuted its first new store in nearly three years in Brooklyn last month, is now controlled by PE firm GSO Capital Partners, an arm of the Blackstone Group…last year seemed to be a record year for celebrity deaths and based on the first month of 2017, the current trend seems to be accelerating. I’m very sad to report the passing of Mary Tyler Moore, the groundbreaking comedienne and actress, who died last month at the age of 80.  Besides iconic roles as Laura Petrie in “The Dick Van Dyke Show” (1961-66) and as Mary Richards on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1970-77), Tyler Moore was also received a Best Actress Academy Award nomination for her role in 1980’s “Ordinary People.” She was also a spokesperson for juvenile diabetes, a cause close to my heart, having been diagnosed with Type 1 version of the disease when she was 33. Mannix is dead too. Actor Mike Connors, who played hard-boiled private eye Joe Mannix on the self titled TV series (1967-74), passed away at the age of 91. Connors, born Krekor Ohanian, began his film career in 1952’s “Sudden Fear.” Actor John Hurt, nominated for two Oscars, is also no longer with us. The gravelly-voiced British Actor, who received Academy Award recognition for his roles in “Midnight Express” (1978) and “The Elephant Man” (1980) had a wide-ranging acting career which included more than 200 film and TV roles. He usually played characters with issues, and according to website IMDB, Hurt’s characters died 47 times on screen…also leaving us were two unsung musical prodigies. Jazz singer Al Jarreau passed away earlier this month at the age of 76. Blessed with a tremendous vocal range, the Milwaukee native didn’t release his first album until he was 35. Over the next 40 years he would release 19 more albums and was rewarded with seven Grammys in the jazz, pop and R&B categories – the only vocalist to be honored in all three genres. Entering guitar heaven is Larry Coryell, whose fusion style made him a pioneer of jazz-rock. Coryell’s career took many twists (by his own design). On the jazz side he collaborated with such greats as Miles Davis, Ron Carter and Chet Baker. And in the late sixties, he delved into psychedelic rock with his band The Free Spirits, in which he composed, sang and played the guitar and sitar. A great technician who also possessed creative jamming skills, Coryell, 73, released more than 60 solo albums in a career that spanned more than 50 years. He died in his sleep after performing the last of two shows on February 18 at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City… we also learned of the passing of the world’s greatest authority on everything (or nothing). Professor Irwin Corey whose mock-intellectual dialogue and fractured logic entertained audiences for more than 70 years, passed away at the age of 102. With his disheveled appearance, featuring tennis shoes and rumpled tuxedo, “The Professor” analyzed a recent election year outcome by noting: “I’m sorry, the returns are fragmentary, but the indication is that there will be a turnout that won’t come up to expectations of those who, through their analyses have proved the percentages will only relate to the outcome.” We’ll miss the professor – he was truly one of a kind.