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Fiesta's owner buying Carnival stores

The parent of Fiesta Mart is buying 37 stores from Minyard for an undisclosed price, including 23 Carnival locations that also cater to the Hispanic consumer.

In all, The Grocers Supply, a family-run, Houston-based food distributor which owns the 50-store Fiesta chain, is buying 37 supermarkets, including five Minyard and nine Sack'n Save warehouse stores.

The sale occurred before Minyard brought its upgraded Carnival flagship concept to Fort Worth, selling one of two lots on which it had planned to build, said Michael D. Byars, chief executive of the Coppell-based Minyard chain, which is owned by a local investment.

A Minyard statement said that while the flagship concept in Dallas County performed well, the softening U.S. economy has affected the entire chain.

"The complexity of running three separate banners cost effectively in one market became more pronounced as our customer base was hit especially hard by the current downturn," Byars said.

The Grocers Supply will keep at least "14 or 15 stores," rebranding them as Fiesta Marts, and run some of the others under the Carnival banner along with the 15 stores it operates in North Texas, Byars said.

Remaining stores will be offered to independent supermarkets that are local clients of Grocers Supply, he said. These may include Terry's, Jerry's, El Rancho and Elrod's.

Minyard plans to close a Carnival store in Bedford on Airport Freeway and will continue to operate 20 supermarkets at Minyard and Sack'n Save supermarkets. A Plano supermarket, currently a Carnival, will be renamed, Byars said.

"There are no layoffs today," said Mary Marvin, Minyard’s vice president of human resources. "The first round would be in 60 days at the earliest and it is business as usual for the next two months.

"We anticipate that the majority of our associates will be hired by the new owners," Marvin said. "Plus, we will try to absorb as many associates as possible into our remaining Minyard stores. We will provide assistance to help affected staff find other employment, also. Beyond this, we are still developing our transition plan."

Fiesta Mart spokesman Bernie Murphy said he was unable to comment until Thursday.

But Minyard released a prepared statement from Fiesta Mart's North Texas operations director, Don Bersterman.

"We have acquired several stores and are interested in interviewing any employee in those stores who would be interested in furthering their grocery career with Fiesta," according to the statement attributed to Bersterman.

Murphy said Bersterman was at a store opening and could not be reached.

The 78-year-old Minyard Food Stores was the last locally based, regional supermarket chain when it was acquired in 2004 by a local investment group, Acquisition Vehicle Texas II, which is managed by a Fort Worth-based firm calling itself Renegade Swish.

Byars declined to say whether his chain was operating profitably, adding only: "The company has been able to improve and grow in value as evidenced by a competitor willing to purchase us."