Cub Foods, the Twin Cities’ largest grocery chain, opened its newest store last week with a bit of mystery in the air.
Since its parent company, Supervalu Inc., was sold last year, its new owner has focused on that firm’s main business as a grocery wholesaler. Cub, along with Supervalu’s other retail chains, were put on the block, but no buyer has emerged.
As Mike Stigers, Cub’s new chief executive, welcomed customers to its new store near Minnehaha Park in south Minneapolis, he said the company won’t let the sale process get in the way of its plans to update stores and improve offerings.
“We’re looking at which stores are going to get remodeled next fiscal year,” Stigers said. “There’s no slowing down the growth of this brand as we look for the correct suitor in the future.”
Stigers said Supervalu’s new owner — United Natural Foods Inc. (UNFI), a wholesaler that specializes in organic products and counts Whole Foods as a key customer — still hopes to sell the 79-unit Cub chain in one deal.
“The strength of Cub as a strong regional brand is its totality,” he said. He declined to comment about potential suitors but said no deal is imminent.
“We’re 100% focused on running Cub Foods,” he said. “When the timing is right, we’ll be able to move forward.”
Hy-Vee CEO Randy Edeker said last year that he’s not interested in acquiring the Cub stores. Kroger, known for buying regional grocery brands such as Roundy’s, continues to struggle financially and may no longer be in acquisition mode.
Cub’s former top executives, Anne Dament and Chad Ferguson, left the company several weeks ago. Dament, executive vice president of retail, marketing and private brands, launched the company’s Quick & Easy meal line in 2017. Ferguson, Cub’s former president, joined Supervalu in 2013 after 20 years at Kroger.
Last year, Cub remodeled 10 full-line stores and two liquor stores. This year, the Maplewood West store will receive a refresh. It’s too soon to say exactly how many stores will be submitted for remodeling after the new fiscal year begins in August, said UNFI spokesman Jeff Swanson.
It’s possible that UNFI could run the stores indefinitely if no buyer comes forward, Stigers said.
Might UNFI decide to just close the stores if no buyer comes forward? “No. That is not on anyone’s radar screen whatsoever,” Stigers said.
Before becoming CEO of Cub in mid-April, Stigers was president of the retailer in 2014 and then promoted to executive vice president of wholesale and supply chain for Supervalu. He is also the executive vice president of fresh for UNFI.
Stigers chatted with sisters Susan Foster and Sally Lofte of Minneapolis as they shopped at the new store on Thursday. “The way they presented the red, green and yellow peppers lifts your spirits,” Foster said.
The store may be smaller than an average Cub, but Lofte liked the wider aisles and the cafe seating for 50. “It’s an attractive store. We’re so excited that it’s close to where we live,” she told Stigers.