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    Giant Eagle Signs with Huntington Bank

    Grocer shuts bottling operation

    Giant Eagle Inc. has made Huntington Bank its exclusive in-store financial partner.

    With the 15-year exclusive agreement, Huntington will install seven-day-a-week, full-service branches in at least 103 Giant Eagle supermarkets. The branches will operate with extended hours, giving shoppers the convenience of banking at night and on the weekends.

    In the short-term, new Huntington branches will be built in 26 Ohio Giant Eagle stores, which previously did not have bank branches. Branches will also be added in two Giant Eagle stores in West Virginia. Additionally, Huntington will install branches in any newly constructed Giant Eagle supermarkets and replace all existing bank branches in some 75 Giant Eagle markets upon the expiration of existing bank branch agreements.

    “Huntington shares Giant Eagle’s commitment to our customers and to our communities,” said John Lucot, Giant Eagle executive VP and COO. “We believe that adding Huntington’s banking expertise to our wide variety of high quality offerings and services will improve the overall shopping experience for Giant Eagle customers.”

    The first two branches will be installed in Giant Eagles in the Columbus, Ohio, area on Oct. 18. Another one will be installed in Lancaster on Oct. 25.

    Huntington Bancshares Inc. is a $52 billion regional bank holding company based in Columbus, Ohio.

    In other Giant Eagle news, the retailer will shutter its 3-year-old bottled water and iced tea operation in Latrobe, Pa. The grocer is talking with a possible buyer for the former LeNature’s Inc. bottling plant, the Pittsburgh Tribune Review reported. The plant is owned by Chestnut Ridge Beverage Co.; Giant Eagle is the minority owner, along with other unidentified investors.

    “As the beverage industry continues to evolve, the company has needed to meet a number of challenges, some of which were unexpected,” Rob Borella, senior director of marketing, said in a statement.

    The company did not say whether the move was due to low sales in Giant Eagle supermarkets or inability to sell to customers outside the chain. The closure means the end of 86 jobs, in addition to 32 cut in an August layoff.

    Giant Eagle is in negotiations to sell the bottling plant to Castle Co-Packers Co., a Pennsylvania-based bottler of teas, waters, sports drinks and children's drinks, the Tribune Review reported.

    Giant Eagle acquired the Chestnut Ridge plant in a September 2007 bankruptcy sale for $23 million after after a trustee in the bankruptcy complained that the grocer had tainted the sale process by threatening to pull Cadbury Schweppes products from its store shelves if Cadbury pursued its bid for the plant. This resulted in Giant Eagle being ordered to pay an extra $3.25 million.

    Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle Inc. operates 170 corporate and 58 independently owned and operated supermarkets in addition to 158 fuel and convenience stores throughout western Pennsylvania, Ohio, north central West Virginia and Maryland.
     

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