Butera bids $32 million for Joe Caputo stores in auction
The owners of Butera and Piggly Wiggly grocery stores had the $32 million high bid Thursday at an auction of Joe Caputo & Sons stores in the Northwest suburbs.
The three remaining Caputo stores in Des Plaines, Palatine and Algonquin will remain open and transition to the new ownership this summer, though it's unknown if the new name on the door will say Butera, Piggly Wiggly, or something else.
"We're excited to have this opportunity to open in these communities," said Paul Butera, co-owner of Butera Finer Foods and Piggly Wiggly Midwest. "The customer can expect that we'll continue the service as they've experienced from Joe Caputo stores, plus we'll have additional improvements."
Thursday's public auction at the Hyatt Rosemont hotel comes amid financial trouble for the Caputo stores, which are being sued in federal court for $4.6 million worth of unpaid produce bills. An attorney for Anthony Marano Co., one of six produce wholesalers alleging bills weren't paid, was appointed as a trustee to auction off Caputo's assets in order to repay the debt to the creditors.
Property acquired by Butera includes:
• The 67,550-square-foot Caputo grocery store at 100 S. Randall Road in Algonquin.
• The 66,233-square-foot Fox Fire Plaza at the southeast corner of Hicks Road and Rand Road in Palatine, which includes the 47,842-square-foot Caputo grocery store.
• The 135,004-square-foot Oaks Shopping Center at the northeast corner of Oakton and Lee streets in Des Plaines, which includes a vacant 63,863-square-foot former Dominick's store.
Butera also acquired the fixtures, equipment and inventory of the 10,200-square-foot Caputo store at 959 E. Oakton St. in Des Plaines. Butera says he plans to transition the old store to a new one down the street at The Oaks, though he doesn't have an official timeline as interior improvements still need to be made.
The small Oakton Street store served as the original Caputo store in 1989. The family still owns the building.
Caputo expanded throughout the suburbs over the years, and took over four former Dominick's locations in 2014. But slow business led to the closure of stores in Arlington Heights and Northbrook in late 2015, and of a much-anticipated location in Elk Grove Village last February -- less than three months after opening. Those locations weren't part of Thursday's auction.
The store owners haven't disputed their debts in federal court, saying in a court filing that they had cash flow problems.
They told their customers in a Feb. 13 Facebook post that the big investment in expansion, followed by the closings, "left a large and unexpected financial burden on our core operations."
Several bidders filled a hotel conference room Thursday morning for the public auction. Prospective buyers were allowed to bid on properties and individual store inventories separately, or all together. The first bid for all Caputo's assets started at $23.3 million.
Butera was required to put down 10 percent of the purchase price Thursday. The sale needs approval from a federal judge, who will hold a hearing next Thursday. A closing date is expected in mid-June.
The Butera family owns and operates 10 Butera stores throughout the suburbs, and 105 Piggly Wiggly locations.
Joe Caputo & Sons is separate from Angelo Caputo's Fresh Markets, which operates stores in Addison, Bloomingdale, Carol Stream, Downers Grove, Elmwood Park, Hanover Park, Naperville and South Elgin. Both companies' owners are from the same extended family.