Family-run Hitchcock's franchise sold

Published: Saturday, November 1, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 1, 2008 at 12:12 a.m.

Alachua-based Hitchcock's sold its 11-store grocery franchise to a Minnesota-based SuperValu franchisee Friday, ending a 63-year run in the Hitchcock family.

Owner Alan Hitchcock said during a break in negotiations late Friday that the store will keep its name and will have no noticeable changes to customers. He also said his 850 employees will keep their jobs, benefits, vacation time and seniority.

Haug Enterprises of Minneapolis takes over Monday. Haug, like Hitchcock's, is a SuperValu franchisee that operates nine Cub Foods stores in the Minneapolis area.

Neither side would discuss terms of the deal.

Hitchcock's operates in small towns that often have no other grocery stores, with stores in Alachua, Astor, East Palatka, Hawthorne, Interlachen, Jasper, Keystone Heights, Newberry, Old Town, Trenton and Williston.

Hitchcock said he will later sell the Save-A-Lot store in Archer.

He said he is selling now to take advantage of the offer to prepare for his eventual retirement. At 56, Hitchcock is remaining on board as a consultant in the meantime.

"I didn't know if I'd ever get this chance again in terms of having a buyer," he said.

"There's a lot of mixed emotions," he said. "It's been my life."

Alan's father, the late Bob Hitchcock, and grandfather Robert opened the first store on Main Street in Alachua in 1945, later opening in Archer, Jasper, Trenton, Williston and Newberry.

Alan, who worked in the store since his teens, took over in 1978.

Hitchcock's expanded with the purchase of the former Miller's Supermarket chain about seven years ago.

President Doug Winsor described Haug as a similarly sized chain that opened in 1972.

"We're both in small family-run organizations that put a lot of value on our employees and our customers and we just felt it was a perfect fit," he said. "Obviously Hitchcock's has done a great job of building business and getting it where it is and we're not going to come in and screw it up."

Hitchcock said SuperValu introduced the companies in March.

"It's been my honor and privilege to serve our customers and we appreciate them and the opportunities we've had," he said. "They've meant everything to us."

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