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Ukrop’s Supermarkets is considering buyers for a potential sell-off of its stores, with Matthews, N.C.-based Harris Teeter said to be one of the frontrunners, according to published reports.
“Harris Teeter has been moving into Maryland, the District of Columbia and Virginia in the last few years, and this would give them a larger presence in Virginia overnight,” Baltimore-based grocery industry observer Jeremy Diamond, whose family ran the now-defunct Food-A-Rama chain, told Progressive Grocer.
“Ukrop’s is being squeezed by competition in Virginia, where its stores are located, and [is] closed on Sundays, which is one of the busiest shopping days of the week,” Diamond replied when asked what might be behind the allegedly contemplated sale. “Food Lion has also expanded immensely near Ukrop’s turf, along with [such retailers as] Wal-Mart The Ukrop brothers, Jim and Bobby, are in their 60s and 70s and might not have a third generation of Ukrop family members groomed to take the reins of the family company, which began in the 1930s.”
At presstime, officials at Richmond, Va.-based Ukrop’s were unavailable for comment, although in a letter to employees yesterday, chairman, president and CEO Robert S. “Bobby” Ukrop referred to reports of the company’s search for a buyer as “speculation … based on rumors, anonymous blog postings and industry chatter.” He added, “Anything I say at this point would just add fuel to the fire.”