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Whole Foods, Wild Oats Too Close for Comfort in Portland, Maine

PORTLAND, Maine --Whole Foods and Wild Oats could soon find themselves closer than they'd like here, thanks to Whole Foods' reported plan to purchase Whole Grocer, an independent natural food store that is located next door to a Wild Oats location.

The two supernaturals will rub elbows here at least temporarily, as Whole Foods will remain at the former Whole Grocer site until a new Whole Foods unit opens a few blocks away next year, according to local published reports. Until then, the two rival stores will be so cozy that they will even share a parking lot.

The acquisition of Whole Grocer by Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods is scheduled occur Thursday, according to Chandrika Sanyal, Whole Grocer's owner.

Wild Oats spokeswoman Sonja Tuitele told the Portland Press Herald her chain isn't concerned that it might lose business to its main competitor: "A rising tide lifts all boats," she said. "The whole [organic and natural food] industry really has the wind at its back."

Seventy-five percent of Wild Oats' markets also have a Whole Foods presence nearby, Tuitele noted, adding that when a competitor opens, Wild Oats sales initially decrease, but recover in a few months.
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