Court approves sales of some Superfresh stores, delays on others

A bankruptcy court approved the sale of two Superfresh stores in the Baltimore area but delayed a decision on the fate of several others.

The owner of the Superfresh grocery chain, which is selling the stores to raise money to pay off debt, said earlier this month that it had found buyers for 12 of 25 stores it was trying to unload. The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. Inc., based in Montvale, N.J., plans to 13 close stores that have no interested buyers next month.

A court on Tuesday approved the sale of the Ellicott City store to SuperValu, which will turn the store into a Shoppers Food & Pharmacy. Sale of the Westminster store to the current landlord, Englar Center Limited Partnership, was also approved. Financial details of the transactions were not released.

A&P has said it could generate $40 million from selling stores.

But the court delayed the sale of a package of stores to a joint venture that includes natural foods chain Mrs. Green's Management Corp. and Village Super Market Inc., which have agreed to buy 10 of the stores. They include two Baltimore stores, on Charles Street and on 41st Street, and others in Parkville, Arnold, White Oak, Lutherville-Timonium, Cambridge, Chestertown, Brunswick and Washington.

The holdup of the sale is mainly due to an objection by the landlord of the Parkville store, Regency Centers LLC. The judge decided to give the landlord time to "resolve" its objection, A&P said in a statement.

The issue could come back to court as early as next week.

Village Super Market would convert the White Oak and Lutherville-Timonium locations into Shop Rite stores. It would pay $6.6 million for the leases, fixtures and assets of those two locations.

Mrs. Green's Management Corp., an organic grocery chain in the Northeast, would operate the remaining stores itself, according to A&P.

Mrs. Green's said in a statement it would upgrade the locations and expand offerings to include natural and organic products, in addition to traditional groceries.

"This investment is part of a strategy to grow our concept in underserved regions," said Matt Williams, CEO of Toronto-based parent Natural Market Restaurants Corp., which owns Mrs. Green's.

The court also approved the sale of the prescription customer lists of seven Superfresh stores to Walgreens, Safeway and CVS.

A&P said it would shut down Superfresh stores, both sold and unsold, in mid-July.

All but two of the 24 Superfresh stores in Maryland — both in Ocean City — are for sale. They are the only two in the chain that will continue to exist for now. The bulk of the work force is in the Baltimore area, where 1,100 people at 16 stores face pink slips as part of the reorganization.

The 25th store is in Washington.

The prospective buyers have not said if they plan to keep current workers.

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