The Fresh Market Heads into Houston

The Fresh Market Inc. will open its first stores in Texas next year. The Greensboro, N.C.-based specialty food retailer has struck a deal to lease four store locations that are currently operated as Rice Epicurean Markets, a family-owned specialty food retailer based in Houston.

Rice Epicurean Markets will continue to operate the four stores through the end of the year and will close the stores the first quarter. After remodeling, the stores are expected to open under The Fresh Market banner in the latter half of fiscal 2013.

"We are excited to expand into Texas, and into Houston in particular," said Craig Carlock, The Fresh Market's president and CEO. "We look forward to introducing The Fresh Market's concept of quality perishable food, excellent customer service and unique shopping atmosphere to a new set of customers, and we look forward to offering our new neighbors a distinctive food shopping experience, one that we think cannot be beaten."

The Fresh Market's four new locations will be in-town, residential-shopping neighborhoods: the Uptown/Tanglewood, Memorial, River Oaks and West University areas of Houston. Entities related to the families that own Rice Epicurean Markets will continue as landlords at three of the locations. The terms of the agreements are not being disclosed.

A fifth Rice Epicurean location on Fountain View in the Briargrove neighborhood of Houston is not subject to the transaction and will continue to operate under the Rice Epicurean Markets banner.

"Our family established our retail grocery business in Houston, Texas, 75 years ago, and we are proud of Rice Epicurean Market's many years of service to the community," said company spokesman Bruce Levy. "We are excited to welcome The Fresh Market to the Houston metropolitan area and to introduce their concept to our customers and neighbors. We believe their stores will be an excellent fit in this market."

Once the conversions are complete, the stores will be staffed by approximately 90 people, most of whom will be hired locally, and the current employees of Rice Epicurean Markets will be encouraged to apply. In addition, there will be incremental space for complementary tenants.

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