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Buyer surfaces for Moo & Oink

Updated: November 4, 2011 5:15PM

Moo & Oink, the 150-year-old iconic meat retailer in the African-American community, has attracted a potential buyer.

The interested buyer’s identity is being withheld until his offer is reviewed, but he is not a Moo & Oink insider, said Chicago attorney Bruce de’Medici.

The potential buyer is interested in the company’s retail stores as well as its intellectual property, such as its website, said de’Medici, who represents Silverman Consulting, a Skokie-based firm that took over Moo & Oink to try to recover value for creditors.

Other bidders have made offers to buy Moo & Oink, but the focus is on this one bid, de’Medici said.

“It would be nice if Moo & Oink could continue,” de’Medici said.

The bid caused Moo & Oink’s auction, scheduled for Monday, to be postponed. Moo & Oink operates four retail stores and lists a meat-packing operation on its website.

Moo & Oink had $10.1 million in liabilities and $6.1 million in assets as of June 7, according to a report in the Austin Weekly News that cited a letter released on Aug. 2 by Silverman Consulting’s managing partner Steven Nerger.

Nerger has been unavailable to comment, and he did not return a phone call on Monday.

Moo & Oink had lost $1 million in 2009; $1.9 million in 2010, and an additional $713,000 in the first six months of this year, according to the Austin Weekly News’ account of the letter.

Moo & Oink conveyed title to its assets on July 29. Its founding owners, the Levy family, tried unsuccessfully to sell the business in 2010, the Austin Weekly News quoted the letter as stating.

Two food analysts said Monday that Moo & Oink might be better off operating solely as a wholesaler or as a meat supplier to grocery stores and discount markets throughout the region.

Such a strategy would be timely because retailers such as Wal-Mart, Aldi, Save-A-Lot and others are opening stores in the so-called “food desert” where fresh produce is scarce and expensive and where no full-line grocery stores operate.

“There is a big movement among food retailers to sell locally produced goods, and shoppers are looking for local suppliers,” said Jon Hauptman, a partner at Barrington-based retail food consultancy Willard Bishop.

“Moo & Oink-branded products could do very well at a wide range of stores in the area, including in southern Wisconsin and in northwest Indiana as well as the Chicago region,” Hauptman said.

Bob Goldin, executive vice president at Chicago food consultancy Technomic, said Moo & Oink could more aggressively sell its branded meats and other foods to local independent grocers.

“As a retailer, it may be one of those retail concepts that has run its course,” Goldin said. “Retailing is tough, with so many competitors and in a tough economy.”

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