Simplicity Pattern Co. has announced plans to enter the business of soft-drink bottling by purchasing the James E. Crass group of Coca-Cola bottlers for slightly more than $100 million.

Crass, based in Richmond, is one of the nation's largest Coca-Cola franchises, with annual sales of about $100 million. Crass has eight bottling plants and seven warehouse centers in Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio, with metropolitan Washington among its key markets.

Simplicity is a leading producer of patterns for the home sewing market, also with annual sales of about $100 million. Peyton M. Pollard, chief operating officer of Crass, will continue in that post and join the Simplicity board.

Owners of all shares of five Crass firms and of 90 percent of the shares of two other companies have approved the proposed acquisition, which is subject to execution of a definitive agreement.

Simplicity Chairman Harold Cooper, whose company has been rumored to be the subject of possible acquisition attempts, said that the move into bottling is a "major step in a program which Simplicity has pursued over the past two years to enable the company to capitalize on available in vestment dollars and extend our product base."

Crass also owns a majority of shares in Norfolk Coca-Cola Bottling Works Inc., which operates two plants and three warehouses in the Norfolk area.