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RETAILING : Management of Heidi’s Frogen Yozurt Says Firm Is Viable Despite Lawsuits

Compiled by Mary Ann Galante, Times staff writer

Heidi’s Frogen Yozurt Shoppes has been hit by a flurry of lawsuits from creditors who say they hold overdue bills.

But Brian Pallas, executive vice president of Heidi’s, said this week that the Laguna Hills-based chain is a viable company that “looks forward to a bright future.”

“I feel like we’re a prime piece of meat floating in the ocean and there are sharks all around,” Pallas said. “A lot of people are rooting for us, but a lot of manipulative people are trying to take us down for greed.”

And notwithstanding the latest spate of lawsuits, Pallas contends that Heidi’s “is turning the corner.”

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The legal actions seek repayment of overdue taxes, back rent and overdue debts.

The county treasurer’s office, for example, filed a delinquency notice late last month for two bills totaling $234.53.

The landlord of Heidi’s corporate offices, Metropolitan Life Insurance, has sued the yogurt chain for 6 weeks of back rent. Carlsberg Resources Corp. has filed a case against Heidi’s for unpaid rent on warehouse space in Costa Mesa. And Marilyn Wallar of Irvine has sued a Heidi’s subsidiary and company executives Heidi A. Miller and Pallas for more than $32,000 allegedly due on two loans.

According to Pallas, however, the lawsuits are “negotiating tactics” brought by creditors who are worried about losing their money. “I’m negotiating with creditors . . . (but) everybody’s pulling the trigger,” he said.

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Pallas said he believes that the county treasurer’s bill has been paid. Metropolitan Life, he said, has been told that Heidi’s is considering a move to smaller headquarters as “part of working out a business plan.” While he doesn’t deny that the money is owed, he views the lawsuit as “a negotiating tactic.”

Carlsberg Resources “wants us out” because the lease for warehouse space is undervalued, Pallas said. And Wallar, who did advertising work for Heidi’s, is still owed about $32,000 but already has been paid most of what she charged for her services, he said.

“It’s a known fact that we’re undercapitalized,” Pallas said. But “we’re not the only ones who are beleaguered. A lot of people are trying to scramble out of our business.”

Tough competition in the industry and negative press over Heidi’s financial woes and problems with its franchisees have intensified Heidi’s problems. Pallas said. It also has brought a tendency among creditors to file lawsuits against Heidi’s to ensure protection of the creditors’ interests, he said.

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Heidi’s has a tentative agreement to merge with Steve’s Homemade Ice Cream of New York.


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