Super Pride Markets, one of Baltimore's largest independent supermarket chains, has closed two of its eight stores and will soon close a third.
Supermarkets on East Chase Street and Liberty Heights Avenue have closed, a company source said yesterday. Employees at the East Northern Parkway location said that store is preparing to close.
Two years ago, the 30-year-old chain had remodeled a store in Cherry Hill and hoped to expand into underserved, urban areas outside Baltimore, the chain's president, Oscar Smith Jr., had said. Smith did not return phone calls yesterday.
The grocer has faced the double challenge of competing as an independent against national chains while trying to serve an urban market that has lost residents to the suburbs. Super Pride is the city's No. 3 independent chain, with $40.4 million in annual sales last year - after Food King and Stop Shop & Save, according to Food World, a Columbia-based trade journal. "As a whole, independents have been challenged like they've never been challenged before," said Jeff Metzger, Food World's publisher. "And in Baltimore City, you've had a fairly significant population decline."
Competition has intensified as national and regional chains with deeper pockets, such as Safeway Inc. and Giant Food Inc., have recognized the city as underserved and put stores there. Keeping up with training and the technology to stay competitive has proved costly for independent chains, Metzger said.