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Associated Grocers, United Grocers merge

Associated Grocers and United Grocers, two of the nation's 10 largestretailer-owned grocery cooperatives, have agreed to merge.

The decision was announced Friday by the boards of directors of bothcooperatives. The companies will form a joint venture, sharing resourcesin some areas and remaining autonomous in others.

United Grocers, based in Portland, is slightly larger, with annual salesof some $1.3 billion and more than 2,000 employees. It also has a truckingsubsidiary, Western Passage Truck Line, and sells Grocers' Insurance in31 states.

Associated Grocers is a comparable cooperative based in Seattle. Bothcarry the Western Family house brand.

The merger doesn't affect the Portland cooperative's decision to closemost of the United Grocers operations in Medford.

The warehouse on Sage Road has employed up to 350 people in recent years.By January, the staff will be cut to about 20 people, handling produce anddairy products.

The closure of the Medford facility was triggered by United Grocers'acquisition of Market Wholesale in 1995. That company had warehouses inSanta Rosa, Tracy and Modesto, Calif. Much of the work is being transferredto warehouses in Tracy and Portland, the company said.

The Medford closure is expected to save the wholesaler $47 million overthe next 10 years.

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