Karl V. Wissmann has joined CandK Market Inc. as its chief operating officer, the Brookings-based grocery chain announced Tuesday.

CandK hopes Wissmann will lead the company out of recent financial difficulties that include voluntarily filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, store closures and layoffs.

CandK operates 45 grocery stores in Oregon and California. Last fall, the company closed stores in Harbor, and Smith River and Crescent City.

Wissmann most recently was president and CEO of Star Markets, a grocery chain on the Hawaiian Islands. He also worked for Kroger and some of its subsidiaries during his career.

He replaced Greg Sandeno, who resigned Jan. 10 following the additional layoffs of 45 employees at CandK's corporate offices in Brookings and Medford.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to grow this independent chain, Wissmann said.

He added, "We have a lot of room to increase what we offer our customers," Wissmann said in a press release.

"I've learned a lot in my 40 years in this industry, and I've spent some time getting to know CandK Market, its stores, its communities and its strengths and weaknesses. I'm confident that we can create real value that our customers will appreciate. Big-box competition is something independents have dealt with for years, and I look forward to leading the company in this effort."

In November, CandK filed a voluntary petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon, Eugene. The company said it was necessary because of competition from large discount stores, such as Walmart and Costco, which are moving into areas traditionally served by CandK stores.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows a company to operate while it restructures.

Edward Hostmann, CandK's chief restructuring officer, said store operations are now meeting expectations, and he expects to emerge from the bankruptcy proceedings this May.

"Our employees have responded to the challenge to make our stores the best they can be, and our customers are shopping our stores," Hostmann said. "(Wissmann) brings an outside perspective, and his small-chain experience will help us become a stronger company."

Wissmann was optimistic about CandK's future.

"The grocery marketplace has changed substantially over the past decade," Wissmann said. "It may seem that bigger competitors will prevail, yet the new economy offers many opportunities for smaller, independent chains.

"We recognize that customers may now shop at both a big-box and a local grocer. Our challenge is to listen to our customers and give them choices that will encourage them to shop more in our stores."

Hostmann said CandK employees have worked hard through the transition.

"We appreciate the dedication of all of our employees," he said. "They have elevated our customer service, and I want to express our gratitude to them for their hard work and loyalty."

Doug Nidiffer, chairman of the CandK board of directors, said entering Chapter 11 "was difficult for our family."

"We're confident that we made the right decision, and are pleased that Karl is joining us. Current operations are meeting expectations, which gives us confidence that CandK will emerge as a stronger, leaner company that will serve local community needs for many years to come."