Riverhead Waldbaum’s closing as A&P files for bankruptcy

Waldbaums2The Waldbaum’s on Route 58 will be closing after the grocery chain’s parent company announced that it has filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The Riverhead grocery store is one of nearly 300 stores owned by The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, better known as A&P. The corporation will be closing 25 grocery stores from New York to Delaware “in the near-term due to lack of interest and significant ongoing store operating losses.”

The announcement comes as part of a restructuring that, according to president and CEO Paul Hertz, “will enable the company to refocus its efforts to ensure the vast majority of A&P stores continue operating under new owners as a result of the court-supervised process.”

A man who identified himself as the manager of the Riverhead store declined to comment on Monday, saying he was not authorized to speak with the media. The Mattituck store was not among those listed on the chopping block.

According to a statement released by the company, $100 million in loans is being sought through Fortress Investment Group. The deal will leave A&P selling off 120 stores in total for about $600 million.

Several A&P assets were sold off to The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company, which purchased 25 A&P stores in the greater New York City area for $146 million. Among those sold were Waldbaum’s in Southampton and East Hampton Villages. The stores are expected to be converted into Stop & Shops eventually, and the deal is expected to close before the end of the year.

Five A&P stores are being closed outright on Long Island, including Pathmark supermarkets in Baldwin and Centereach and Waldbaum’s locations in Carle Place, Oceanside and Riverhead.

Regular customers at the Riverhead store on Monday weren’t surprised to hear that it will be closing soon. Other customers coming in or out of the store said they were not from the area, so they would be unaffected.

“I kind of expected it for a while,” said Sandra Brown, a 72-year-old resident at the nearby Riverhead Landing on Middle Road. Ms. Brown said that prices have been increasing as of late, and “competition on Route 58 probably made it too difficult” for the company to survive.

Emily Hamill, 82, said she saw prices creeping up recently too. And fewer cars in the lot as a result.

“Every time I come here, the parking lot is empty over there,” she said, pointing to the eastern side of the parking lot. Ms. Hamill said she goes to Waldbaum’s “every day.” So while she wasn’t surprised, she will miss the store.

Of the 25 closures announced by Waldbaum’s parent company, two A&P’s will close, 16 Pathmarks will close, four Superfresh stores will close and three Waldbaums will shutter.

A&P “will continue to conduct business and serve customers” during the court-supervised sale process, the company said.

This isn’t the first time the grocery chain has entered bankruptcy: A&P filed for chapter 11 in 2010 and emerged two years later.

Some employees at the time told the News-Review that they feared for their job safety. This time around, it remains unclear if employees at any closing stores will be offered positions at other locations or otherwise let go.

Photo credit: Nicole Smith.