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‘A lot of uncertainty’ MARTIN’S workers concerned about future

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Posted at 12:58 PM, Jul 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-14 18:56:30-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Just hours after news broke of a Publix Super Markets Inc. buyout of 10-area MARTIN'S stores, longtime employees said they were worried for their future.

That's because the Lakeland, Florida-based Publix is requiring employees at the purchased MARTIN'S store to reapply for their jobs. Also, a new buyer has not yet come forward to takeover nine remaining MARTIN's stores not involved in the Publix purchase.

MARTIN'S previously announced three locations would close for good this summer:

  • 3330 South Crater Rd., Petersburg
  • 7324 Bell Creek Rd., Mechanicsville
  • 3000 Stony Point Rd., Richmond

Ryan Bonner, a customer service representative at the MARTIN'S Stony Point Road location for six years, said he was worried about employees who depend on the grocery chain for their livelihood.

Brendan King standing with MARTIN'S employee Ryan Bonner.

Brendan King standing with MARTIN'S employee Ryan Bonner.

"I know people who have worked here for 35 years since the store opened [first as a Ukrop's]," Bonner said. "I know it'll be tough for them. For those who haven't moved on and found another job, there's a lot of uncertainty."

Another employee said it was hard to walk into work Thursday knowing her future with MARTIN'S was uncertain.

The 10 MARTIN's locations will continue to operate until the Publix permitting process was completed. Grand opening dates for the Publix’s locations will depend on remodeling and completion of the stores’ construction.

Publix Map

Christopher Brand, a MARTIN'S spokesman, said employees like Bonner may be able to transfer to another location while other terminated employees will receive "enhanced severance packages."

The nine locations up-for-sale will stay open for another six to 12 months, according to Brand.

MARTIN's customer Kim Gifford said the employees have a special place in her heart.

"This is the first place I visited after I gave birth to my son," Gifford said. "Some of them have known my son for years and recognize him as a baby."

The announcement of a pending sale for MARTIN’S had been expected since mid-June, as ordered by the Federal Trade Commission. A year ago Delhaize and Ahold, the parent companies of grocery chains Food Lion and MARTIN’S respectively, merged into one company.

The purchase is contingent on the Federal Trade Commission’s approval and clearance of the merger between Ahold and Delhaize Group.

If you have a MARTIN'S story to share, click here to email the newsroom.

Chris Brand, the Public Affairs Lead for Ahold USA, MARTIN'S parent company, sent answers to the following questions from WTVR CBS 6.

What will happen to the employees?

Our concern, first and foremost, is taking care of our associates and treating all of them fairly and with respect.

But each sale is subject to terms and conditions negotiated with the individual buyer. In connection with the sale of the stores that we intend to sell to Publix or the sale of the additional 10 stores that will continue to be marketed, any associates who are terminated from employment and are not offered a position with the new owner will receive enhanced severance benefits.

The completion of the sale of these stores will likely occur within 6 - 12 months after completion of the merger. After these stores transition, Publix plans to remodel and redevelop the stores during an extended process expected to last 6 to 12 months per store, during which time they will remain closed. As a result, Publix will not be able to extend offers of employment to current associates at the time of purchase.

We are proud of the work of the MARTIN’S associates in the Richmond area and will continue to operate stores in the Richmond market for the foreseeable future. Therefore for now, it is business as usual as MARTIN’S continues to operate these stores for an extended period of time.

10 of the 19 stores are getting purchased by Publix. What happens to the remaining 9 stores?

We will continue to operate the 10 additional MARTIN’S stores that are still being marketed, and we are unable to predict what the outcome of that process will be. We do not expect to operate these stores beyond the next 6-12 months.

While selling stores is a difficult part of the merger process, we have worked hard to find strong buyers for these locations and to minimize any disruptions for our dedicated associates and loyal customers.

If the remaining stores are not purchased, do they end up sitting vacant?

It’s too early in the process. While selling stores is a difficult part of the merger process, we have worked hard to find strong buyers for these locations and to minimize any disruptions for our dedicated associates and loyal customers.

Do you have a buyer for your Richmond location at Staples Mill and Hilliard? What will happen to that now vacant store?

We have no information to share at this time.