Superfresh gets bids on a dozen stores

Owners of ShopRite, Shoppers chains among bidders

  • This Superfresh store in Hampden is one of 22 in Maryland that owner A&P put up for sale.
This Superfresh store in Hampden is one of 22 in Maryland that… (Baltimore Sun photo by Gene…)
May 23, 2011|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Buyers have stepped forward to snap up a dozen Superfresh grocery stores slated to be shut down in July as its bankrupt parent works to pay off billions of dollars in liabilities.

Superfresh owner A&P said last month it was trying to sell 25 Superfresh stores, mostly in the Baltimore area. The Montvale, N.J., company said 1,500 workers would lose their jobs unless new owners decide to keep the current employees.

Any sale would require the approval of a bankruptcy judge. A hearing is expected June 14.

A joint venture between Mrs. Green's Management Corp. and Village Super Market Inc. has agreed to buy 10 of the stores. They include two stores in Baltimore and one each in Parkville, Arnold, White Oak, Lutherville-Timonium, Cambridge, Chestertown, Brunswick and Washington.

Village would convert the White Oak and Lutherville-Timonium locations into ShopRite stores. It would pay $6.6 million for the leases, fixtures and assets of those two locations, the company said in a news release.

It is unclear what would happen to the remaining stores. Mrs. Green's Management Corp., an organic grocery chain based in upstate New York, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Supervalu has bid on the Superfresh store in Ellicott City, which it would turn into a Shoppers Food & Pharmacy. The company declined to say how much it bid.

"Shoppers is consistently exploring its operations to identify the best ways to serve our customers and move the business forward, and we are excited at the prospect of potentially opening a store in Ellicott City," spokesman Steve E. Sylven said in an email. "There are still processes that need to be finalized, and once those occur, we will announce more details behind our plans for this location."

The landlord of the Superfresh store in Westminster, Englar Center LLP, is trying to buy that location. Englar Center could not be reached for comment.

It is unclear if the new owners would keep current Superfresh workers.

"This hasn't been approved yet," said Santina Stankevich, a spokesman for Wakefern Food Corp., which owns ShopRite and PriceRite. "So it is too premature to discuss any further details."

Sylven said Supervalu also would not discuss such details while the transaction was still underway.

Superfresh said it does not know what will happen to the stores that did not attract bidders.

"The company continues to evaluate its options, including potential store closures," A&P spokesman Eric Andrus said in an email.

A&P announced plans to shrink its Superfresh brand significantly in April as it tries to reduce $3.2 billion in liabilities. It is also closing or selling dozens of stores in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., which was founded in 1859 in New York, operates 395 stores and employs more than 40,000 people in eight states.

In Maryland, the supermarket chain has struggled with intense competition as new players such as Wegmans have entered the market and stalwarts such as Giant Food have upgraded their stores and reduced prices.

Of the 24 Superfresh stores in the state, all but two— both in Ocean City — are for sale. The bulk of the workforce is in the Baltimore area, where 1,100 people at 16 stores face pink slips as part of the reorganization.

Superfresh has awarded, pending approval by the court, the prescription customer lists of seven stores to three different bidders. Walgreens and Safeway each received three lists and CVS received one.

Those sales, too, require the approval of a bankruptcy judge.

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