Two in­vestors have store in the bag for re­vamp­ing

The Denver Post - - BUSINESS - By Shay Cas­tle

The founders of Boul­der’s Al­falfa’s Mar­ket have sold the nat­u­ral gro­cer to two Den­ver-based in­vestors who plan to re­vamp the Boul­der lo­ca­tion and ex­pand across the Front Range.

Mark Ret­zloff and Bar­ney Fein­blum sold their ma­jor­ity shares in the com­pany to Mark Hom­lish, vice pres­i­dent of prop­erty man­age­ment firm Lin­coln Prop­erty Com­pany, and Wil­liam “Tripp” Wall, vice pres­i­dent of wealth man­age­ment com­pany Al­liance Bern­stein.

Fi­nan­cial terms of the pri­vate deal, in­clud­ing price and amount of shares sold, were not dis­closed.

Founded in 1979 as Pearl Street Mar­ket, Al­falfa’s was an early nat­u­ral and or­ganic gro­cery.

Growth forced it to move to 1651 Broad­way in 1983, bring­ing along a name change. By 1996, it had grown to 11 lo­ca­tions and was ac­quired by Boul­der’s Wild Oats, only to be di­vested when Whole Foods pur­chased Wild Oats in 2007.

Ret­zloff and Fein­blum bought the Broad­way store and restarted Al­falfa’s in 2011.

A sec­ond Al­falfa’s opened in Louisville, at 785 E. South Boul­der Road, in 2014.

Both men have been look­ing for in­vestors for months, a spokesper­son said.

Fein­blum plans to re­tire, while Ret­zloff wants to fo­cus on other ven­tures.

“We are pleased with the tran­si­tion to a new ma­jor­ity share­holder and be­lieve this lo­cal, Den­ver-based in­vest­ment group is the right in­vestor to help Al­falfa’s move for­ward,” Fein­blum said in an emailed state­ment.

Ret­zloff did not re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

Both founders re­main mi­nor­ity share­hold­ers, a com­pany of­fi­cial said.

Frank Ha­gan, a share­holder in the orig­i­nal Al­falfa’s and the re­vamp, said Fein­blum and Ret­zloff had brought too much debt into the com­pany and sold their shares for “10 cents on the dol­lar.”

“They dug a deep hole,” he said. While the orig­i­nal op­er­a­tion was “lean,” the redo was geared up for more stores, in­clud­ing a cor­po­rate staff of dozens, Ha­gan said.

The Boul­der store un­der­per­formed ex­pec­ta­tions, and more money was needed from in­vestors to open the Louisville lo­ca­tion, and it, too, failed to de­liver enough rev­enue to re­pay the debt.

Paul Aiken, Daily Cam­era

Evan Kam­let, a checker at Al­falfa’s Mar­ket, 1651 Broad­way in Boul­der, searches for Joy Larkin’s keys in her gro­cery bag as her 2-year-old son, Trey, looks on. The keys were ac­ci­den­tally cov­ered with gro­ceries dur­ing check­out.

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