With an auction scheduled for Monday, Super Pride Markets has begun the process of satisfying its creditors' claims after closing all eight of its stores over the past four months, according to the company's management consultant.
"This is unfortunately the liquidation of the supermarket," said Robert Riesner, president of KMR Management Inc. of Willow Grove, Pa., which works with distressed companies.
"It's pretty much the conclusion. We had hoped for [a turnaround] but it just didn't materialize."
Super Pride retained Isennock Auction Services Inc., based in White Hall in Harford County, to auction the fixtures and equipment of five Super Pride Markets stores in Baltimore. The stores are located on Cherry Hill Road, West Lafayette Avenue, Liberty Road, West Belvedere Avenue and Harford Road.
The auction is to be at the Super Pride store at 646 Cherry Hill Road.
"We could add some other stores at the last minute - up to two more," Riesner said, adding that the individual store properties or leases were still controlled by landlords and were not up for auction.
Isennock Auction will first attempt to sell the entire contents of each store as a package, said Bob Isennock Sr., vice president.
However, if the high bids do not meet Super Pride's minimum prices, Isennock said, the contents will be auctioned item by item. Isennock declined to reveal the minimum acceptable prices.
While Super Pride did not file for bankruptcy protection, the supermarket is holding the auction to satisfy Allfirst Financial Inc.'s secured claim, Riesner said. He declined to give a dollar figure. An Allfirst spokesman said the bank was not allowed to disclose any information about its clients.
The 30-year-old chain, among the largest independent supermarkets in Baltimore, had difficulty competing against national chains, and the demographic trend of city residents moving to the suburbs over the past decade also contributed to its demise.
The chain's president, Oscar Smith Jr., did not return phone calls yesterday.
Super Pride is the latest independent Baltimore supermarket to vanish. Valu Food, which had 23 stores at its peak, closed its last six stores this year and held a bankruptcy auction to sell its leases.
Isennock said he was not aware of any supermarket chains that have expressed an interest in the auction, although his office has fielded questions over the telephone.
"We've sent postcards and fliers to every grocery store in Maryland ... Mars, Food Lion, Giant, Super Fresh," said Isennock. "I think what [Riesner] wants to do is sell each store and see if it reaches the total [dollar amount] they have in mind."
Barry Scher, a spokesman for Landover-based Giant Food Inc., said his company won't be participating in Super Pride's auction.
"Their stores are so small and antiquated ... but we are looking at other sites aggressively in Baltimore, generally to build for ourselves," Scher said.
The typical Giant Food stores are about twice as big as Super Pride's stores, and offer grocery shopping and a pharmacy, Scher said.
According to trade journal Food World, Super Pride was the city's No. 3 independent chain, with $40.4 million in annual sales in 1999, before it began closing stores in June.
Isennock plans to hold an open house Friday at each of the five stores. Fixtures and equipment to be sold at auction will be marked and catalogued for prospective bidders to inspect, Isennock said.
The stores' contents include cash registers and checkout stations; refrigeration units; display cases; and bakery, produce, meat and deli equipment.