Investment firm The Yucaipa Companies LLC, owned by billionaire Ron Burkle, is expected to scoop up financially faltering Fresh & Easy grocery stores, which have been a money pit for British owner Tesco since their United States debut nearly six years ago.
Fresh & Easy representatives announced the purchase on Tuesday, Sept. 10, stating in a message to customers that the company expects to maintain 4,000 jobs and a majority of stores, but some stores will be closing as part of the pending agreement.
“All along we have been hopeful that Fresh & Easy could be sold as an operating business, preserving jobs and the great shopping trip you’ve come to expect from Fresh & Easy,” the message states. “Rest assured, we plan on working through this transition to new ownership with the same spirit and dedication that we’ve brought to this business since the beginning.”
The investment firm hopes to make the grocery stores, known for their pre-packaged, pre-made meals and self-serve checkouts, profitable like other chains the investor has helped salvage.
The announcement from Fresh & Easy didn’t indicate exactly how many stores will close or how many jobs will be eliminated. The company didn’t provide a list of which stores will shutter either, but news reports indicate that Yucaipa is purchasing 150 of the 200 Fresh & Easy stores in the United States, leaving 50 stores slated for closure.
Though it’s still unclear which stores will keep their doors open, managers of the Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market stores at 2475 Cherry Ave. in Signal Hill and at 3300 Atlantic Ave. in California Heights in Long Beach confirmed with the Signal Tribune by phone that they don’t expect the stores to close. There are also three other Fresh & Easy stores in Long Beach located at 1340 E. 7th St., 6436 Spring St. and 450 The Promenade N.
Ashley Schaffer, property manager for Signal Hill Petroleum, which owns the property where the Signal Hill store opened in 2010, said in a phone interview that she hasn’t received an official word yet on which stores will close.
“At this point, it’s hard to say what will happen,” Schaffer said. “It may take some time to analyze all of their stores and decide which ones they want to keep open and which ones they want to close down.”
Phone calls to Fresh & Easy media relations seeking comment were not returned before the Signal Tribune’s press time.