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Wednesday, October 06, 2010

HOWS Market at Trancas and the Rest of Stores in the Chain Are for Sale

• Local Employees Are Being Laid Off and Daily Hours of Operation Have Been Reduced

BY BILL KOENEKER


HOWS, a grocery store chain which was started by some of the former executives of Hughes Markets, is for sale, according to one of the investor/owners of the four-store chain, which includes the Trancas store.
“Yes, it is on the market,” said Mark Oerum, the O in the acronym of HOWS, which is composed of the first initials of the last names of the original investor/owners and executives who came from Hughes Markets.
The four include Roger Hughes, who recently passed away; Oerum; David Wolf and Steve Strickler.
Oerum said that the sale of the markets is not tied to Hughes’ death but reflects the current state of the economy.
“These are tough times. We have been struggling for the last couple of years,” he said, adding that one of the stores in the chain that was located in North Hollywood has already been shuttered but the company is still paying rent on the lease.
Oerum confirmed that 17 full-time and part-time employees were laid off last week at the Trancas market, but stressed that the store was not closing its doors in January as had been rumored.
“That is not true,” he said.
The HOWS spokesperson said the company is offering the listing of the chain themselves and has already shown some of the stores to a few potential buyers.
He declined to name any of the possible suitors and said he would have no comment when asked whether Whole Foods might be a potential purchaser.
He also declined to say how much time was left on the lease, other than to say it was short-term.
Oerum said he and the other investors hope the stores could be sold as a chain, but were resigned to the possibility of selling one or two stores individually. With the North Hollywood store closed, the four remaining stores in the chain are in Malibu, Granada Hills, Pasadena and Torrance.
Dan Bercu, who heads up the ownership of the Trancas shopping center, said he had not received official word from the company. He said he believed it would live up to the terms of the lease and meet its obligations. He also declined to say how long the lease is.
Bercu said his company, which recently found another shopping center investor, hopes to break ground sometime during the winter months after the final plans have been submitted to the city for approval.
Roger Hughes, 76, died in July, 2010. He joined Hughes Markets in 1973 as a store manager. He was serving as vice president when his father Joseph Hughes, who owned the chain, died.
Hughes was chair and CEO of what became a 58-store operation that was later sold and ultimately acquired by Ralphs. The Hughes Markets banners were changed to Ralphs. Hughes then retired, according to Supermarket News.
In 1999, Hughes joined forces with three former executives to form HOWS.
The four HOWS markets opened in areas where they hoped to capitalize on former Hughes shoppers, but expansion stalled as the four-store operation found it difficult to compete with the major chains in a sluggish economy.

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