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BURLINGTON, MA-Fifteen White Hen Pantry stores in Eastern Massachusetts have been sold for $12.3 million to Linear Retail Properties LLC. The deal gives the Burlington buyer its first freestanding properties in New England.

The stores in Winthrop, Everett, Revere, Lynn, West Roxbury, Natick, Haverhill, Lawrence, Newburyport, Lowell, West Harwich, Shrewsbury, Pepperell and Worcester will be leased back to the seller, New England Pantry, under long-term lease agreements, Bill Beckeman, president and CEO of Linear Retail, tells GlobeSt.com.

Beckeman says the acquisition occurred by chance when Linear was discussing the opening of a store in one of the firm’s retail centers with New England Pantry, which operates all 55 White Hen Pantry locations in New England. Those discussions evolved into the sale-leaseback transaction, he says.

“The more we talked about it, the more we felt it would work,” says Beckeman, noting that Linear was impressed by New England Pantry’s operation, sales performance and store locations.

“With $200 million still to invest we had immediate interest in pursuing a portfolio transaction with New England Pantry and hope to do more just like it with other retailers,” he says.

New England Pantry CEO Andy Brothers says in a statement that the company had no intention of selling the stores when it entered into discussions. When Linear “showed us how we could take advantage of the strong retail real estate market and free up capital to allow us to accelerate our expansion, we reconsidered,” Brothers says. He notes that the transaction would allow the chain to focus its efforts on opening more stores, including one in Danvers in a property also owned by Linear. He could not be reached for further comment.

Linear has been on a buying spree this year, acquiring seven retail condos and three basement storage units at Lincoln Plaza in Boston just two months ago for $3.7 million. Linear also owns 17 other suburban retail properties but the White Hen acquisition was its first purchase of freestanding properties, Beckeman says.

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