Retailers

Earth Fare's Founder, Execs Acquire 4 Stores

Whole Foods, Winn-Dixie and Aldi also grab sites in bankruptcy bids
Photograph courtesy of Earth Fare

A group that includes executives and a founder of the bankrupt natural foods chain Earth Fare is buying back its name and a handful of its stores.

A group identified in court papers as DJ3 Delaware was named the winning bidder for stores in Asheville and Boone, N.C., Athens, Ga., and Roanoake, Va. That group also acquired intellectual property of the company, including its brand names.

Bethany Turon, who most recently was Earth Fare’s SVP of human resources, was named CEO of the new Earth Fare group. The investor group was headed by Dennis Hulsing, a health club owner, and includes the founder of Earth Fare, Roger Derrough, and Randy Talley, a former Earth Fare executive who went on to found a chain of Asheville health food restaurants called Green Sage Cafe, reports said.

Other winning bidders include Southeastern Grocers’ Winn-Dixie chain, which is acquiring four leased stores in Florida (Viera, Jacksonville, Lakewood Ranch and Boynton Beach); Aldi, which is buying Earth Fare’s location in Tallahassee, Fla.; and Whole Foods Markets, acquiring sites in Chattanooga, Tenn., and South Asheville, N.C.

The combined sales—which were executed without an auction as demand and competing bids were few—will net the Earth Fare estate about $6 million and leaves dozens of sites still unclaimed. The company separately has entered into lease termination agreements with landlords of its stores in Gainesville, Ocala and Palm Beach Gardens, Fla; Williamsburg, Va.; Charlotte, N.C.; and Carmel, Ind.

Turon is a former human resources executive for Swissport, Books-A-Million and Walmart, where she spent nearly 13 years in various HR roles, according to LinkedIn. She joined Earth Fare less than a year ago. Turon told the Asheville Citizen-Times newspaper that the group was interested in drawing additional investors to reopen the acquired units and potentially acquire additional sites. She described the acquired stores as Earth Fare’s most profitable but said the group was motivated by recapturing “the original intentions of Earth Fare.” Earth Fare was founded by Derrough in 1975 as Dinner for the Earth. The chain was since sold to private equity group Monitor Capital and then to Oak Hill Capital Partners.

It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in early February with the intention of liquidating, having been unable to sell the chain as a going concern. It struggled due to competition, high debts and substandard real estate, officials said.

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