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Longtime Baltimore-area chain Mars Super Markets will go out of business on July 31, following its sale of five locations to Sunbury, Pa.-based Weis Markets for a reported $25 million, according to a May 24 memo to company associates from Mars CEO Chris D’Anna.
Citing the fact of “declining sales for several years,” D’Anna's memo said in part: “We have tried cutting costs everywhere we can while preserving jobs and benefits, but it has not been enough.”
To address the concerns of affected associates, he pointed to the deal with Weis, adding that Mars was “actively working to backfill the remaining stores with other food retailers [by] seeking to re-create as many re-employment opportunities as possible.”
As for the timing of the decision, D’Anna explained: “Closing now ensures our ability to offer severance pay and to help foster new job opportunities. … Given the overall state of the company and the competitive environment, there is no alternate course. This is a final decision.”
On Friday, each Mars employee will receive a letter with information on severance pay and benefits, which will also serve as a 60-day WARN notice required by the Maryland Department of Labor.
The news of comes as little surprise for local industry observer Jeremy Diamond. “The remaining eight stores [after the sale to Weis] are not in great locations,” points out Diamond, whose family ran the Foodarama chain in the region. “Many times in the past several years, competitors have offered to buy the entire Mars company, but were turned down. Mars continued to cut costs, but never tried to reinvent themselves and failed to identify their niche within the marketplace. Today’s grocery competition is fierce, and only the grocers who can adapt to change and identify their niche will survive.”
An estimated 650-700 full- and part-time employees at the eight remaining stores and at company headquarters will be affected, according to Diamond, who added that about 400 were employed at the five stores being purchased by Weis.
Of the family that ran Mars, Diamond noted the D’Annas "have had a long run for decades in the supermarket industry. Their large growth occurred in the 1980s and early ’90s, when the late company co-founder, Angelo D'Anna, purchased a handful of stores at the Pantry Pride bankruptcy auction, along with the distribution center located in Baltimore City."
The complete text of Chris D’Anna's memo to company associates follows below:
DATE: May 24, 2016
TO: All Personnel
FROM: Chris D’Anna
RE: Store Changes
The Company will close all store effective July 31, 2016.
As you all know, the Company has been struggling with declining sales for several years. We have tried cutting costs everywhere we can while preserving jobs and benefits, but it has not been enough.
The stores will remain open to customers, business as usual, through July, 31, 2016.
We have entered into an agreement with Weis Markets to sell five stores and are actively working to backfill the remaining stores with other food retailers: seeking to create as many re-employment opportunities as possible.
We are determined to do the best we can for all of our employees. Closing now ensures our ability to offer severance pay and to help foster new job opportunities.
I know this news is not easy to hear. The Company and I thank you for your dedication and commitment to our customers. We also appreciate your hard work and contributions to our business. In no way is this event a reflection on your performance. Given the overall state of the company and the competitive environment, there is no alternate course. This is a final decision.
By Friday, we will be providing every employee with a letter, including information on Severance Pay and Benefits. In addition, this letter will serve as the official 60-day WARN notice required by the State Department of Labor.
Attached is a Joint Press Release from our company and Weis Markets announcing the sale of the five stores.