2015-08-19 / Features

It’s Business As Usual For Queens Pathmark, Waldbaum’s Stores

By Liz Goff
There’s good news for Pathmark and Waldbaum’s shoppers in Queens.

The Pathmark Super Store on Farrington Street in Flushing and the Waldvaum’s Supermarket on 31st Avenue in East Elmhurst are currently open for business during regular store hours, a spokesperson for the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) said.

The Waldbaum’s supermarket will remain open until at least October, when A&P is expected to sign off on a deal to sell the store to a Key Food Supermarket associate, the A&P spokesperson said.

“We may very likely remain open past January,” a store manager said. “Everything is pretty much up in the air right now.”

It is unclear if the store will become part of the Key Food retail chain, or if it will be owned and operated as a family business, the spokesperson said. “But for now, its shelves are stocked and the store is open for business,” he said.

The Flushing Pathmark store, which is being acquired by the Stop N’ Shop chain, could remain open wile it undergoes a facelift, “a transformation into a Stop N’ Shop Super Store,” said a spokesperson for Stop N’ Shop parent company, Ahold.

A number of A&P owned locations, including Pathmark and Waldbru’s stores, were closed temporarily following the news that A&P had declared bankruptcy, an A&P spokesperson said. “The stores closed to do a complete inventory, The stores shuffled some merchandise, cleared off shelves and incorporated products during the count,” the spokesperson said. “It’s a common practice for retailers who have declared bankruptcy.”

Meanwhile, A&P last week petitioned the bankruptcy court for permission to slash severance pay to employees, saying the move will help the company to pay off its creditors. A&P is asking the court to grant the grocer permission to cut severance pay 30-to-50-per cent, depending on length of employment.

Insiders say A&P is also trying to back out of portion of its contract agreement with union employees. “There’s a clause in the contract that says A&P must secure the jobs of long-time employees with any company that acquires its holdings,” sources said. “They’re trying to dump that clause because perspective buyers are going to ask for a lower purchase price if they are taking on A&P employees.”

The demise of A&P is the latest in more than a decade of bankruptcies declared by retailers that served generations of Queens residents.

Alexander’s, Abraham & Straus, Korvettes, Ohrbach’s, Caldor and Genovese Drugs are just a few of the familiar names that have gone to dust since 1992. The familiar retailers shut down, one by one, each saying that a dwindling customer base forced them to file for bankruptcy, or to revert their property to real estate.

Threats of job cuts encouraged disgruntled Pathmark employees to settle a contract dispute with A&P in 2010, workers said. “We ended up agreeing to a fifty per cent cut in future salary and benefit packages – with the promise that when things get better for the company, they’ll get better for us,” the workers said. “They lied.”

A&P was founded in 1869 on Vesey Street in lower Manhattan by George Huntington Hartford and George Gilman as a mail order tea and spice business, and eventually grew into the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company. The firm dominated the grocery business in the mid-1930s, operating more than 10,000 stores by the 1940s. It remained a dominant force in the U.S. grocery business throughout the 1940s, until government watchdogs viewed it as a monopoly and forced the breakup of its operations.

A&P filed for bankruptcy in 2010, emerging two years later as a private company with corporate and financial backers. But A&P failed to keep up with the times, and failed to draw new, younger customers to its locations, retail experts said.

“Stores acquired from A&P during the October auction that are operated by Ahold or other large retailers are likely to remain open and thrive under their new management,” a Pathmark store manager said. “Workers will have an opportunity to keep their jobs and things will improve for them. But workers at stores that are scooped up by individuals or family businesses won’t fare as well,” the manager said. “Many of those stores are non-union and they hire their friends or family members to work for them. It’s unlikely they will keep employees who worked for the A&P owned stores.”

Managers at the Flushing Pathmark store and the East Elmhurat Waldbaum’s store said they are presently open for business as usual. “We’re stocked and ready to sell,” a Pathmark manager said. We’re not going anywhere, just yet.”

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