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Garden Ridge rounds out management spots; closing south Florida store

HOUSTON — Garden Ridge said it has now filled all its key senior management positions.

The retailer, which entered Chapter 11 bankruptcy this past February, has named Steve Higgins as senior vice president and general merchandise manager. He was previously in a similar role at Cost Plus World Market.

Don Martin, who had been serving as interim chief financial officer, has been named chief restructuring officer. Succeeding him is Rich Brown, formerly of The Christmas Tree Shops.

Rounding out the team is Jerry McBrair, who last year joined the company as senior vice president of stores and operations from Breuners Home Furnishings, a 10-unit furniture store chain operating in the Sacramento Valley and San Francisco Bay areas.

In other Garden Ridge news, the company said this week it is being forced to close its remaining South Florida store at the Sawgrass Mills mall in Broward County after the landlord refused to amend the current lease rate.

The 120,000-square-foot store opened for business in August 2000.

Garden Ridge originally operated three units in Florida. In mid-February, the company closed its site in the Cutler Ridge area of Miami-Dade county. Now, Garden Ridge will only have one unit left in the state — Jacksonville.

The home goods retailer is negotiating with its landlords as part of its reorganization plan filed under Chapter 11 on Feb. 2. Garden Ridge's emergence from Chapter 11 has been stalled in part by delays in its lease renegotiation efforts, the company said.

"We entered this reorganization case with some leases that were as much as double the market rate," said Don Martin, chief restructuring officer. "A discount retailer cannot be viable with a rent structure like that when it's competing with so many other retailers who are paying no more than fair market rents."

Added Jack Lewis, CEO: "We are committed to getting our rents in line with the market, and will negotiate to achieve those rents or relocate out of those locations. With the progress we are now making, we anticipate many more landlords will negotiate directly with us and reach a fair market lease agreement."

In the cases of some of its other units, Garden Ridge has just signed lease amendments for stores in: Greenville, S.C.; O'Fallon, Ill.; and Grand Prairie and Round Rock, both in Texas. These agreements are still subject to court approval.

The closing sale at the South Florida store began Wednesday upon the announcement of its shutting down. This sale will last about 45 days — the amount of time the company expects it needs to clear out inventory, including new summer and fall merchandise.

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