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Marble Slab, Freshens open co-branded unit

WOODLAND HILLS Calif. A combined Marble Slab Creamery and Freshens store has opened here, marking the first co-branded unit under a new partnership between the ice cream chain's parent, NexCen Brands Inc., and Freshens Quality Brands.

The partnership follows another earlier this year between NexCen and the 1,200-unit Freshens to bring the smoothie brand's offerings to some of NexCen's other treat concepts, including Pretzel Time, Pretzelmaker and Great American Cookies. When that agreement was announced in May, the two companies indicated that it could be extended to NexCen's ice cream holdings. NexCen also is parent to the Maggie Moo's ice cream chain, though it was not clear whether that brand was included in the latest deal with Freshens.

Company officials could not be reached for comment by press time.

New York-based NexCen has struggled financially in recent months after revealing in May that it faced a major cash shortfall related to its $93.7 million purchase of Great American Cookie. The company has since restructured its lending agreement and promoted its chief financial officer, Kenneth J. Hall, to CEO following the resignation of Robert D'Loren.

NexCen also owns several retail brands, including The Athlete's Food, Bill Blass and Waverly. The company franchises a total of 1,900 stores worldwide.

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