SAN FRANCISCO - Harley DeLano, the veteran retailer who's buying 12 Cala Foods and Bell Markets in Northern California that he used to run, said he believes he can build a family business from those stores.
The stores are small, ranging from 8,900 square feet to 23,000 square feet, "but that size fits my marketing plan," he told SN, "which is to operate them as a chain of 12 independent stores, each one different from the others in the way it's merchandised and marketed."
DeLano is acquiring the stores from the Ralphs division of Kroger Co., Cincinnati, which has been selling or shutting down most of its Northern California stores for the past few months.
DeLano is buying the stores through a newly formed entity called DeLano Retail Partners, which consists of DeLano, 68, and his son, Dennis, who has worked in the industry for 32 years, including the last 15 for Ralphs.
"We're buying the stores as a long-term family growth investment," DeLano said.
The four Cala stores and eight Bell stores will retain those names once the deal is consummated - probably within two months, DeLano said - "because both names have a long history in the Bay Area, and though we're not buying ownership of the names from Kroger, we are being given the right to use them."
Ironically, DeLano was trying to help Kroger find a buyer for the stores when he decided to acquire them himself, he said. "I started out consulting for other companies, but the more I got into it, the more I felt this could be a good way to close out my career," he explained.
DeLano started that career with ABC Markets, a small chain serving a largely African-American clientele in south-central Los Angeles. When ABC was acquired by another chain in 1990, he was hired by Yucaipa Cos., Los Angeles, as president of its Northern California operations, which included the Bell and Cala chains. When Yucaipa acquired Ralphs in 1995, DeLano stayed on as president of Ralphs' Northern California division until he retired in 1999.