A&P bankruptcy dooms supermarket

Photos by Ron Leir The Belleville Pathmark in Silver Lake (l.) is marked for closure while the Food Basics in the Valley may be sold.
Photos by Ron Leir
The Belleville Pathmark in Silver Lake (l.) is marked for closure while the Food Basics in the Valley may be sold.


Another area supermarket is being dealt a death blow.

The Belleville Pathmark, located on Belmont Ave. in the township’s Silver Lake section, will be closing. How soon has not yet been revealed.

Like the Kearny Pathmark on Passaic Ave. which shut down in March 2012 and the Belleville Pathmark on Washington Ave. that folded in October 2010 (since replaced by a ShopRite), the Silver Lake store is a casualty of the bankruptcy of A&P, its parent company.

In a corporate announcement released July 20, A&P said it “has executed asset purchase agreements covering approximately 120 stores at a purchase price of approximately $600 million” under its Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The company said it operates 296 stores under the brand names A&P, Best Cellars, Food Basics, The Food Emporium, Pathmark, Super fresh and Waldbaum’s.

While the Silver Lake Pathmark is one of 25 stores that the company plans to close “in the near-term due to lack of interest and significant ongoing store operating losses,” the Belleville Food Basics store in the Valley section is reportedly on the market.

As part of its Chapter 11 reorganization, A&P is looking “to enter into a $100 million debtor-in possession financing agreement with Fortress Investment Group … to continue operating its [remaining] stores, pay its suppliers, vendors, employees and others in the ordinary course of business.”

This strategy, the company said, “is the best way for A&P to preserve as many jobs as possible, and maximize value for all stakeholders. … And while the decision to close some stores is always difficult, these actions will enable the company to refocus its efforts to ensure the vast majority of A&P stores continue operating under new owners as a result of the court-supervised process.”

Employees at Belleville Food Basics on Main St., which began life as a Grand Union in the 1970s and switched over to its current operators about a decade ago, are hopeful about the future, said John Niccollai, president of Local 464A, United Food & Commercial Workers. The union represents the store’s 16 full-time and 56 part-time workers, he said.

A good portion of those workers live in The Observer’s coverage area: 20 are Belleville residents, 9 are from Kearny, three from Nutley, two from Bloomfield and one from Lyndhurst, according to Niccollai.

Given its location, minutes from Rt. 21 and the Rutgers St. bridge, “with the right operator, this store could succeed,” Niccollai asserted.

Longtime Belleville resident/ businessman and civic activist Vincent Frantantoni recalled the store has been beset with flooding issues several times but has struggled on.

“In the morning, they have several carts filled with leftover Portuguese rolls and bagels and you can get eight or nine bagels or rolls for just a dollar,” he said.

There seems little hope, however, for employees at the Silver Lake Pathmark, which was built in 1972.

“That store is closing,” said Cynthia McCarthy, spokeswoman for UFCW’s Local 1262, which bargains for the 70 employees – 51 part-time and 19 full-time – who work there.

Belleville shopper Tom Parker, a U.S. Marine Vietnam veteran, said he wasn’t surprised to hear about the impending closing. “It’s business,” he said. “But who gets hurt? Your local community. At my age, I have witnessed a lot of things and this whole thing was very well planned.”

Another patron, Regina Jefferson of Bloomfield, said the shutdown “is going to be hard on people living in the neighborhood. For me, this is close, convenient. Now I’ll have to go to the other side of town to the ShopRite or to Kearny ShopRite.”

And Melvin Finley, who drives from Newark’s North Ward to the Silver Lake store, said that while he visits the local Stop & Shop and Kearny ShopRite, he’s also been coming to Belleville Pathmark for 18 years. “The seafood department is very good,” he added. “I’m going to miss the great deals.”

At the Municipal Building, Mayor Ray Kimble said that no one from either A&P or the Pathmark has shared the news of the closing with local officials.

Councilman Joseph Longo said: “Between its great prices and service, I hate to see it go.”

And interim township manager Kevin Esposito offered this observation: “It’s sad to see any business close. In this case, one of the members of my family worked at Pathmark for years. But it’s a great location for a supermarket and I think [the property] will be sold soon. Retailers will be looking for an opportunity to be a tenant there.”

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