Buehler’s Fresh Foods is in talks to buy the Portage Lakes IGA and convert it to one of its smaller-format stores.
The purchase, which is expected to be completed by the end of July, would be the Wooster-based company’s first grocery store acquisition since 1969 and its first foray into Summit County, said Bob Buehler, vice president of marketing and merchandising for Buehler’s, in an interview Friday. It has stores throughout Ohio, including Medina, Wayne and Stark counties.
The privately owned company is in its third generation of family ownership and its parent company, E&H Family Group, owns Buehler’s Fresh Foods and Ace Hardware stores.
The purchase of the Portage Lakes IGA on South Main Street in Green was not as much about entering Summit County as it was about finding the right store, said Buehler. The company is looking to expand its smaller-format stores, similar to its Town Market store in Wooster at the company’s original store location, he said.
The Portage Lakes site is “an ideal location, in between our Wadsworth and Jackson [Township] stores,” said Buehler. “We’ve been doing a lot of experimenting with that format and it’s done well for us. We were looking for ways to grow that format, so to speak, without building stores from the ground up.”
The Portage Lakes site is about 22,000 square feet, similar to the Wooster Town Market store. That’s compared to 75,000 to 100,000 square feet for full Buehler’s stores. A decision has not yet been made on whether to call the new store Buehler’s or Town Market, he said.
Buehler said Bill Anthony, owner of Portage Lakes IGA, was looking to retire and will be helpful during the transition. The store employs 45 people and Buehler said all will go through an evaluation process.
Anthony said “customers will see no changes in the store’s hours or offerings while the sale of our store to Buehler’s is being finalized.” The store will have many of the departments in a full-sized Buehler’s.
“Our goal will be to have really outstanding produce, meats, seafood, deli, bakery and prepared foods — the things that we do well with — and our service that we’re known for,” Buehler said.
Green Mayor Dick Norton said “the Portage Lakes IGA has been a fixture of our community for years and we are pleased another high quality grocery operator will continue to serve Green and surrounding area for many years.”
Details of the deal were not disclosed.
Buehler’s has about 3,000 employees at locations in Wooster, Orrville, Wadsworth, Medina, Brunswick, Ashland, New Philadelphia, Dover, Jackson Township, Delaware and Coshocton.
The company has Ace Hardware stores in New Philadelphia, Dover, Orrville, Delaware, Medina, Jackson Township, Independence, Rocky River, Westlake, Middlefield and this summer, Oberlin.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or firstname.lastname@example.org.