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    Farm Stores May Buy Gardner's Markets

    The chain is in talks to buy the gourmet food business.

    MIAMI, Fl. -- Farm Stores convenience store chain is in talks to buy one of Miami's oldest fine-food shops, Gardner's Markets, The Miami Herald reported.

    Executives at both firms wouldn't comment beyond confirming that talks were taking place, and Maurice Adams, one of Gardner's owners, said there was a letter of intent between the two firms.

    Carlos Bared, CEO of Farm Stores, cautioned that his company "frequently looks at transactions -- many that don't materialize."

    The deal comes at a time of high interest -- and competition -- in the gourmet-food industry, with sales growth at gourmet grocers surpassing that of more traditional markets, the report stated.

    National chains, such as Whole Foods and The Fresh Market, are expanding on what for years was the sole turf of a number of local specialty stores. Both Whole Foods and The Fresh Market have targeted South Florida for expansion.

    In 2001, Farm Stores launched an initiative to convert its stores into "express markets."

    "If you're doing food, you have to make sure that you have the expertise," said Jeff Lenard, spokesperson for NACSm adding if Farm Stores bought an established gourmet chain, it might acquire that expertise and could thus expand its options.

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