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Local Fresh & Easy Stores to Stay Open Despite Sale

Los Angeles-based investment firm plans for 'business as usual' but some closures

Central Coast Fresh & Easy grocery stores will remain open despite the struggling chain’s sale to the Los Angeles-based Yucaipa Companies LLC, which on Tuesday announced its plans to retain most of the former company’s 200 stores.

The private investment firm purchased the neighborhood markets from British retailer Tesco PLC, which in April publicly stated plans to sell the United Kingdom company’s unprofitable venture into the U.S. grocery market.

Details of the sale were not released, but Fresh & Easy officials on Tuesday said the new owner has pledged to preserve more than 4,000 jobs at chain stores in Arizona, California and Nevada.

Local stores in Santa Barbara, Orcutt and Lompoc will remain open, according to store employees.

The fate of a space at 5955 Calle Real in Goleta, which Fresh & Easy purchased earlier this year in anticipation of opening another location, was not immediately known.

City officials said the chain has withdrawn its application, implying an intent to no longer pursue opening in the location.

“The decision we are announcing today represents the best outcome for Tesco shareholders and Fresh & Easy's stakeholders,” Tesco CEO Philip Clarke in a statement said. “It offers us an orderly and efficient exit from the US market, while protecting the jobs of more than 4,000 colleagues at Fresh & Easy.”

The exact number of stores to close wasn’t released, although some media have reported that nearly 50 would shutter their doors.

Yucaipa's purchase is expected to be complete within three months, and, in the meantime, it is “business as usual” for most Fresh & Easy stores, the company said Tuesday.

“Fresh & Easy is a tremendous foundation,” said Ron Burkle, managing partner of Yucaipa. “Tesco should be applauded for giving their customers an affordable, healthy, convenient shopping experience. Its dedicated employees and great base of customers give us a solid starting point to complete Tesco's vision with some changes that we think will make it even more relevant to today's consumer.

“We plan on continuing to build Fresh & Easy into a ‘next-generation convenience retail experience,’ providing busy consumers with more local and healthy access for their daily needs."

The Yucaipa Companies, which was founded in 1986, inherits a grocery chain that has plagued Tesco with reported total losses of $1.8 billion over its six-year life.

Fresh & Easy encouraged all of its employees to reapply for a similar rewards program offered via Yucaipa.

A list of frequently asked questions regarding the Friends Rewards Members can be found by clicking here.

Noozhawk staff writer Gina Potthoff can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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