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The current owners of Magruder’s, a five-store Washington, D.C.-area supermarket chain that’s been in continuous operation for 138 years, have sold one store and are in negotiations to sell the remaining locations.
Gary Bortnick, VP of Rockville, Md.-based Magruder Holdings Inc., revealed the news in a Jan. 16 letter following media reports of out-of-stocks at the company's local stores. The location that has been sold, which is in Washington, will continue to operate under the Magruder’s name, he noted, but the fate of the rest of the markets is now up in the air.
“We are currently in negotiations to sell the remaining four locations to a group who wishes to purchase the individual stores and to reopen them as quickly as possible, and we are working diligently with all parties involved,” said Bortnick, adding that a 50 percent-off sale on all purchases would therefore begin at the Vienna, Va.; Alexandria, Va.; Rockville; and Gaithersburg, Va.; stores. The letter didn't identify the group with which the company was negotiating, to whom the Washington store was sold, or even whether these entities were one and the same.
Bortnick, whose family bought the chain 46 years ago, described the decision to sell as “difficult,” but said that “now is the right time for our family to move on.”
“Fierce competition is probably a large cause of this recent news, as Magruder’s faces large D.C. competitors like market leader Giant Food, followed by Safeway and Shoppers Food and Pharmacy (Supervalu),” said area grocery industry observer Jeremy Diamond of the Baltimore-based Diamond Group. “Harris Teeter, Wegmans, Target and others have lately been grabbing grocery dollars as well, while they move into the D.C. region.”
At its peak, Magruder’s operated 10 stores, and is one of the last locally owned grocers in the Baltimore-Washington market, according to Diamond.