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Once Associated, always Associated?

by Andrew Kirk, OF THE RECORD STAFF

The Park City Market is an independently-owned grocery store affiliated with the corporation Associated Foods. The market’s landlords, owners of Snow Creek Plaza, put a stipulation in the lease forbidding Associated Foods from opening another store within a five-mile radius.

The plaza is now crying foul since Associated Foods took over the Albertsons grocery store on the other side of Kearns Blvd.

According to a complaint filed Nov. 24 in Third District Court, the property owners get a percentage of all Park City Market’s sales. Undue and preventable competition would hurt sales and therefore its revenue.

In addition to selecting a similar name (Fresh Market) to the Park City Market, the Associated Foods store now on Park Avenue also carries the Western Family discount brand.

Still, because the Park City Market is independently owned, Associated Foods has done nothing to violate a competing store’s lease, explained attorney for the defendant David Klomp with Durham, Jones & Pinegar.

"The lease doesn’t apply to the Albertsons in that location," he said. "The former Dan’s store was sold to Mike Holm and he’s a very good operator and well known in the Park City area He’s done an awfully good job building business in that store, has been, and will be competitive operator."

Associated Foods can’t control him, what he sells or his prices, Klomp said.

Even though the lawsuit appears to be protecting the interests of Holm, he said via email last week that it was not being done for his benefit.

"They can do that because they do not own this store anymore," Holm said. "They are my financial institution for this store but I make all the payments to them and I take the risk of owning this store on as a separate entity. So really Associated Foods is not in violation of the 5-mile policy because they do not own this store anymore."

The Federal Trade Commission blocked the purchase of an Albertsons in Tooele because there was a Macey’s nearby for this very reason, but did not block the Park City sale because there is no conflict, he said.

"I truly am a local grocery store with local ties to the county. Fresh Market is still a chain store and they will be under the strict rules of that chain," he added.

Dwayne Vance, attorney for Snow Creek with Miller, Vance & Thompson, made the following statement:

"From the moment the owner of Snow Creek Plaza first learned of Associated Food’s purchase of the Albertson’s store on Park Avenue, Associated Food and their representatives have refused to respond to multiple inquiries and have refused to even try and address and resolve this matter informally.

The documentation approving the sale of the Park City Market to Mike Holm was not even presented to the owner of Snow Creek Plaza for signature until after it became public knowledge that Associated Food was going to purchase the Albertson’s store.

The lease’s financial obligations are quite substantial, and we have not been provided with any information that would lead us to believe that Mike Holm has the financial wherewithal to satisfy those lease obligations on his own if need be. Mike Holm is so financially dependent on Associated Food that he cannot be fairly characterized as being independent from Associated Food."

Klomp said good relations with the Snow Creek owners have existed in the past and he hopes the issue will be resolved in a friendly manner.


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