Marsh Plans To Break Ground For Chicago Store By Fall

INDIANAPOLIS - Marsh Supermarkets is poised to enter the Chicago market with its first Illinois store in Naperville, which is expected to open in 2005, chairman and c.e.o. Don Marsh said during his address to shareholders at the company's annual meeting Aug. 3.

The planned move into Chicago follows remarks made by Don Marsh at last year's meeting, when he told shareholders the supermarket chain needed to enter new geographic areas to grow, because its existing stores already rank first or second in their exiting markets. At the time, Marsh said: "We need new territory. We will not be cannibalizing ourselves here in Indianapolis."

Company spokeswoman Jodi Marsh told Progressive Grocer the retailer anticipates breaking ground on its first Windy City location as early as September. The design of the 66,000-square-foot unit, she added, will feature Marsh's new "lifestyle" concept that features a perishables-intense format with products grouped to enhance customers' menu planning.

Marsh currently operates Life Style stores in Noblesville and Fort Wayne, Ind., while another location is currently under construction in northwest Indianapolis, said Jodi Marsh. Prior to breaking ground in Naperville, Ill., zoning and other regulatory hurdles need to be cleared prior to the start of construction.

During the first quarter ended June 19, Marsh's sales of $399.9 million were up by 5.8 percent over the same period last year, while earnings climbed by 14 percent to $6.9 million. The company's same-store sales rose 3.2 percent, although, excluding gasoline sales, comparable sales declined by 0.4 percent.

In a statement, Don Marsh said Indiana, the company's core market, is lagging behind the U.S. recovery because of the heavy manufacturing base in central Indiana, which experienced significant job losses and plant closings in the past two years.

Marsh's net income rose 28.6 percent to $1.6 million in the three months ended June 19, compared with $1.26 million for the same period last year, while earnings per diluted share were 20 cents in the quarter, up from 16 cents a year ago.

During the quarter, the company converted one Marsh supermarket to the LoBill Foods banner, while its Crystal Food Service subsidiary opened a new casual quick-service restaurant, Trios Di Tuscanos, adjacent to a new McNamara Florist location. The combined units use the floral shop to provide a unique visual effect.

Subsequent to quarter's end, Marsh opened a new Arthur's Fresh Market concept store, which at 21,000 square feet, is smaller than a traditional Marsh store. Focused on high-quality perishables and customer convenience, the store is designed for efficient operations while carrying a complete line of fresh options and a full variety of grocery items. An O'Malia store was converted to the LoBill Foods banner, and a new LoBill store also opened after the end of the quarter.

With locations throughout Indiana and western Ohio, the company operates 67 Marsh supermarkets, 39 LoBill Foods stores, eight O'Malia Food Markets, 164 Village Pantry convenience stores, one Arthur's Fresh Market, and one Savin*$. The company also operates Crystal Food Services, which provides upscale catering, cafeteria management, office coffee, coffee roasting, vending and concessions, and restaurant management; Primo Banquet Catering and conference centers; Floral Fashions; McNamara Florist; and Enflora - Flowers for Business.

-- Meg Major
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