Baltimore-based Mars Super Markets Inc. plans to close its Edison Highway distribution center on March 9 and lay off 78 workers, the company said Monday.

The 70-year-old family owned chain, which has 17 supermarkets in the Baltimore area, notified the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation of the closing and said it plans to work with the new distributor to place workers in jobs.

The grocer will outsource supply and distribution to Bozzuto's Inc. to better compete with larger regional and national chains, said Chris D'Anna, Mars' chairman and CEO, in a statement.

"While it was a difficult decision to close our distribution facility, our new business model will allow us to leverage the buying power of a premier East Coast distributor serving more than 250 independent grocery stores," D'Anna said. "This will strengthen our ability to offer competitive pricing and a wide variety of high quality products to our customers and remain a preferred grocery option for Maryland families."

Lorraine.mirabella@baltsun.com