Food Fair Inc. is closing its six remaining Pantry Pride supermarkets in suburban Washington. Last week the Pantry Pride in Suitland was closed and the building sold. About 340 employes will be displaced by the planned closings.
The chain also is considering the sale of its remaining 48 Maryland stores, mainly in the Baltimore area, as part of a bankruptcy settlement. The company employs about 4,300 people in the region and said it lost nearly $6 million in the past year in its Maryland operation. It operates 200 Pantry Pride supermarkets across the nation.
Stores scheduled for closing in the Washington area are in Bowie, Capitol Heights, Landover, Laurel, New Carrollton and Silver Spring. Pantry Pride also operates stores in the Richmond-Norfolk-Virginia Beach area and in Florida.
A decision on the remaining 48 Pantry Prides operated through regional offices in Baltimore is expected within the next few months.
"We're considering several options, and selling is one of them," said company spokesman Bernard Lipskin from the Food Fair corporate office in Ft. Lauderdale. "The Baltimore market is hotly competitive, with a great deal of discounting," he added.
Industry sources said Pantry Pride holds a 12.21 percent market share in Baltimore, exceeded only by Giant Food's 17.97 percent. Current figures for Washington were unavailable, but Pantry Pride has much less impact on the market here.
Food Fair filed Chapter XI bankruptcy motions nearly 33 months ago, and recently filed a plan, approved by a bankruptcy judge, to resume normal operations. Under the plan, creditors and institutional lenders would be paid 29.1 percent of their bills within the next two weeks and an additional 0.9 percent is expected by Jan. 15. The payments eventually could reach 80 percent under the pan, Lipskin said.
Grant C. Gentry, Food Fair's chairman and chief executive officer, said the company will emerge "more disciplined . . . with a strong cash position." Gentry added that "even the possible sale or closing of the Baltimore operations in part or in whole would not prevent the company from continuing as a viable entity, fully able to carry out the terms of the plan of arrangement and remain profitable."