by Andrew Garda
Although the parent company of Kings Food Markets has announced it was filing for Chapter 11 protection, the stores will remain open, officials said.
KB US Holdings Inc.’s announcement came on the heels of a buyout offer from New York investment firm TLI Bedrock, LLC for $75 million, which will save Montclair’s Kings at 650 Valley Road.
KB and its subsidiaries have commenced voluntary Chapter 11 proceedings in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York in order to facilitate an “orderly sale,” according to a statement released Aug. 23. They contend that with COVID-19, their sales have never been stronger.
“We are pleased to be moving forward with a sale so we can position Kings… for even greater long-term success,” said Judith Spires, CEO of KB US Holdings Inc.
“During this COVID crisis, our associates and communities have demonstrated not only the viability, but absolute necessity of our markets in their communities. Our sales and service have never been stronger; we are confident we will emerge from this process without missing a beat, well-positioned for future stability and success.”
KB has obtained a commitment for approximately $20 million in financing from its lender. If the court approves, the new financing, combined with cash generated from the company’s ongoing operations, will be used to support the business throughout the sale process.
“KB has sufficient liquidity to meet its go-forward business obligations and will operate its business as usual,” according to the press release.
In a different announcement, Spires stated that Kings stores “will continue to be fully operational, offering the quality product and selections you have come to expect.”
Short term, that means Kings Montclair should not be shuttering anytime soon.
Lidl bit longer
On Aug. 26, Lidl U.S. LLC, dubbing itself “America’s Fastest-Growing Supermarket,” announced it will be opening 10 New Jersey-based stores next year, in Bayonne, Brick, Egg Harbor, Garwood, Glassboro, Gloucester Township, Lawrenceville, Park Ridge, Weehawken and Woodbridge. Montclair was not on the list.
Since the announcement last year that the European-based market would open a 29,000-square-foot store in Lackawanna Plaza, there has been no movement, as the project is caught up in a lawsuit.
Lidl spokesperson Chandler Ebeier said that although Montclair did not make the list, it was still a viable location for the company. The list consisted of stores opening by the end of 2021, he said.
In July, Ebeier told Montclair Local: “It is too early to offer specifics and a timeline for the site, but we do hope to be able to serve the Montclair area in the near future, and as we have updates we will let you know.”
Development at Lackawanna Plaza has stalled in part due to a lawsuit brought against the township Planning Board by a group attempting to save the glass-enclosed train sheds. The critical part of the lawsuit states that on Feb. 11, 2019, which was the night of the final vote and the night the announcement was made that Lidl would be the supermarket tenant, the site plan was verbally changed from 47,000 square feet to 29,000. The public was not allowed to speak after the change.
Lidl’s footprint would be much smaller than that of the former Pathmark, which pulled out of Lackawanna Plaza in 2015, and is close rin size to the Acme on Valley Road.
Acme’s hurricane response
Since 2015, when it took over A&P’s location at 510 Valley Road, Acme has served parts of Upper and Central Montclair. At the onset of COVID, the supermarket quickly moved to limit the number of shoppers, hold senior hours, erect plexiglass barriers and offer wipe and sanitizer stations.
They took it up a notch when Hurricane Isaias hit the town and 4,278 residents — representing 22 percent of the town’s PSE&G customers — were out of power.
Despite also not having power, the store remained open, illuminating aisles with portable lights and continuing to work to make sure their customer base could acquire groceries.
In a recent quarterly report through June, parent company Albertsons Cos. announced that sales and other revenue increased 21.4 percent, with a 276 percent growth in digital sales and an increase in store sales, both largely driven by the pandemic.
Whole Foods service
While a larger Whole Foods is just a short distance away in West Orange, the Montclair location on Bloomfield Avenue continues to serve Central and, to an extent, South Montclair.
At the onset of the pandemic, Whole Foods joined ACME in quickly initiating COVID safety measures. During busy times, the store funnels the checkout line through the far end of the store near the bakery.