Lucky's store chain files for bankruptcy

October 22, 2005|By ANDREA K. WALKER | ANDREA K. WALKER,SUN REPORTER

Lucky's Convenience Markets Inc., the longtime local superette chain that abruptly shut its doors Monday, has filed for bankruptcy.

In court papers filed this week, the company estimated its assets at $50,000 or less and its debts at $1 million to $10 million. Its largest creditors include Coca-Cola Enterprises, Schmidt Baking Co. Inc. and Utz Quality Foods Inc.

Lucky's attorney Howard M. Heneson said the company plans to disclose more details, including total assets and debts, next week.

Charles A. Lynch, the company's founder, didn't return calls yesterday to the company's headquarters in Pasadena.

Lucky's filed under Chapter 11 reorganization, rather than Chapter 7 liquidation. Heneson said there is a slim possibility that the company might reopen one or two stores, but that it will never look like the 11-store chain it once was.

"The stores are closed and they will be liquidated such that the creditors should be paid in full," Heneson said. "They're in Chapter 11 for the purpose of an orderly and proper liquidation under their control. At this time they do not plan to reopen their stores. There may be one or two locations later, but right now we're not even committed to that."

Employees were told in a meeting with company officials Tuesday that they wouldn't be guaranteed a full return on their stock under their profit-sharing program, said William Wheeler, 35, once a manager at the store in Arbutus. Employees who have been with the company five years are eligible for stock awards. Employees also weren't offered a severance package, he said.

"They said we could get all of our stock or less of our stock, they're not sure," Wheeler said.

Wheeler had worked for Lucky's since he was 16 - the only place he's ever worked. He found out about Lucky's closing when he arrived at work to find the front door locked.

"It caught me completely by surprise considering my store was pretty profitable," Wheeler said. "Some of our stores weren't doing so well. But if he was going to shut any of our stores down we didn't think it would be ours."

Many of the employees feel as if they were left in the cold.

"My husband has been so loyal to the company, then he was treated as if he was just tossed away," said Wheeler's wife, Patty.

Judy Lynch, former wife of the founder who also is part owner of Lucky's, blamed the closing on financial problems caused by high cigarette taxes. Convenience stores have also faced competition from supermarkets, big-box discounters and drugstores.

Charles Lynch bought his first store in 1959 at William and Cross streets in South Baltimore.

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

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