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Vons to Buy Williams Bros. Grocery Chain : Retail: The 18 stores are in fast-growing areas north of Los Angeles. The purchase price is about $48 million.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Vons Cos., Southern California’s largest supermarket chain, plans to grow bigger by heading north. It agreed to acquire 18 stores of the Santa Maria-based Williams Bros. Markets chain for about $48 million, the companies announced Tuesday.

“We view the acquisition of Williams Bros. as an important addition to our existing store network,” said Roger E. Stangeland, chairman and chief executive of Arcadia-based Vons. “The stores are located in high-growth markets and will enable Vons to service new trade areas while still utilizing our existing infrastructure.”

“For Williams Bros. customers and employees, we see this as a positive development,” said Merrell Williams, chairman of Williams Bros. Markets Inc. “Vons has an impressive track record of investing heavily in its stores by embarking on major remodel programs.”

Vons will finance the transaction through its existing revolving loan. The two companies said they expect to complete the transaction by the end of the year.

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Williams Bros. Markets is a family-owned chain with 19 stores from Santa Barbara to Morro Bay. The chain recorded 1990 sales of about $200 million. Vons is buying all but one store, which is encumbered by lease complications, spokeswoman Mary McAboy said.

“We have stated publicly that we wish to be a growth company through growing our existing customer sales, opening new stores or making strategic acquisitions,” she said.

The 322-store Vons chain operates three stores in the same territory as Williams Bros., and the company said it will stick with its previously announced plans to sell those stores.

After its 1988 acquisition of Safeway’s Southern California stores, Vons launched a remodeling program that boosted sales per square foot at those stores to $630, compared to $450 at the time of the purchase. Vons plans to have 80% of its stores remodeled or remerchandised by the end of the year.

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