BOSTON - Arthur Cores, the co-founder of a small Boston-area chicken restaurant that eventually became the Boston Market chain, has died. He was 52.

His partner, John Yee, said yesterday that Cores died at their Miami Beach home on Wednesday of complications of esophageal cancer. Cores was diagnosed with advanced cancer at age 45 and given only months to live.

Cores was 27 in 1985 and attending Northeastern University when he partnered with friend Steven Kolow, 23, to craft a simple but effective business plan - offering quick and affordable chicken dinners with the wholesome qualities of a home-cooked meal, Yee said.

"As the co-founder of Boston Market, he always took pride that he started a business in 1985 that helped working families have quality meals that were 'home- cooked' after a busy day and he was able to provide employment for thousands of people nationwide," Yee said.

"He brought mashed potatoes and chicken back to the scene, instead of plain fast food," Yee said. "His legacy lives on."

Cores and Kolow teamed up with successive business developers from 1989. The fast-casual restaurant chain went public in 1993 and expanded rapidly until it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1998. McDonald's Corp. bought the struggling company in 2000. Investment firm Sun Capital Partners Inc. now owns Boston Market Corp., which says it has about 550 restaurants nationwide.

Cores, however, cashed out his investment and retired before the company went bust.

"The Boston Market family is deeply saddened to learn about Arthur's death," chief executive officer Lane Cardwell said.

Besides Yee, Cores is survived by a brother and a sister.