Texas Firm Acquires Capistrano Wholesale, Retail Nurseries

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A large Texas-based nursery company said Tuesday that it has acquired the 60-acre Capistrano Wholesale Nursery and its 130,000-square-foot Capistrano Gardens retail nursery store here.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Officials of Sunbelt Nursery Group Inc., a Ft. Worth holding company that also owns the Nurseryland retail chain, did say, however, that they expect the acquisition to increase annual sales by as much as $8.4 million.

Capistrano Wholesale Nursery and Capistrano Gardens had been owned by Newport Beach landscape contractor Charles Johnson through a second entity called California Cos.

The 12-year-old Capistrano Gardens retail store has about 40 employees. The 10-year-old wholesale nursery-stock operation also employs about 40, sales manager Sal Gonzales said.

Employees have been told that Sunbelt intends to keep the two businesses in San Juan Capistrano, Gonzales said.

Sunbelt, which went public last year in a stock offering by the former owner of Pier One Imports Inc., is also negotiating to acquire a retail nursery in Temecula from California Cos., said Mark Johnson, Sunbelt's vice president for finance. Pier One still owns 49% of Sunbelt's common stock, he said.

Sunbelt has about 2,000 employees in 101 retail nursery centers that operate under a variety of names. It has 30 Southern California stores with a total of 450 employees in its Nurseryland division; nine stores in the Phoenix area, and 62 stores and several growing grounds in Texas.

The company, formed in a 1983 merger of several nursery operations, traces its roots to a Central Texas orchard-stock nursery founded in 1919.

For its 1992 fiscal year ended Jan. 31, Sunbelt reported a profit of $3.2 million, or 54 cents a share, on sales of $140.1 million .

The company's stock, traded on the American Stock Exchange, closed at $5.25 a share Tuesday, down 25 cents.

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