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Clint Engel

Carl's Patio exiting California

Carl's Patio is exiting its California market, citing a continuing tough business climate, and plans to focus on its core Florida business.

Paul Otowchits, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Boca Raton, Fla.-based chain, confirmed that the company hired Hilco Merchant Resources to run store closing sales, which have begun at five stores operating under the Berks Patio name.

The stores in northern and southern California range from 8,000 to 18,000 square feet.

The sales began about two weeks ago and the retailer already has closed one of the locations. Otowchits estimated the liquidation will run another four weeks or so and said the retailer will gradually close stores as inventory is sold down. He would not disclose revenue projections for the closing sales.

Carl's Patio entered California in 2005 with the acquisition of Berk's of Santa Monica, Calif., and Saddleback of San Diego. At the end of 2009, it acquired Frellens Casual & Outdoor Furniture, a three-store chain in the San Francisco Bay Area.

It eventually consolidated the businesses down to five stores under the Berk's name.

"It's been a tough go out here in California," Otowchits said, adding that Carl's Patio, like others in the industry, has been hampered by the weak economy. But while business seems to have leveled off in Florida, California sales continued to deteriorate, he said.

"Florida was operating at a more profitable level, and California was hurting our overall business," he said.

"Logistically it was tough," Otowchits said, adding that the rents in California also were "higher than the stores could handle."

"In order to survive you've got to downsize a little bit," he said.

He said the company's focus will be on expanding its business in Florida - where Carl's operates 12 stores - and on its PatioFurniture.com ecommerce site.

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