Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Workers: Kroger to buy 8 Thriftways

No official word yet; 21 stores will close or be sold

By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Kroger Co. is in talks to buy at least eight Thriftway supermarkets in Greater Cincinnati that are preparing to close next week, store managers and employees at the stores said Monday.

Cincinnati-based Kroger, the area's No. 1 grocer, confirmed last week that it had a tentative agreement to buy a number of Thriftway stores from its struggling Jacksonville, Fla.-based parent, Winn-Dixie Stores Inc.

Neither Kroger nor Winn-Dixie officials would identify the stores, and they refused to discuss the reports from Thriftway workers Monday.

Said Kroger spokesman Gary Rhodes: "The deal isn't final. Until that happens, it would be premature to identify specific locations or number of stores."

But eight stores were listed Sunday in a full-page ad in the Enquirer announcing storewide clearance sales. They are in Norwood, Blue Ash, Monfort Heights, Batavia Township, Mount Carmel, Goshen, Alexandria and Mount Zion in Boone County. The stores will close June 23.

Store managers or front-desk workers at each of the eight stores confirmed that the stores were closing and were to be sold to Kroger, affecting an estimated 760 Thriftway employees.

"These are not spokespeople for the company," Kathy Lussier, a Thriftway spokeswoman, said. "We don't comment on any negotiations."

Winn-Dixie said April 30 that it would sell or close 21 underperforming Thriftway supermarkets in Greater Cincinnati, putting about 2,000 jobs locally at risk.

Nationwide, Winn-Dixie plans to sell or close 111 stores in 16 "non-core" markets. It also will close 45 unprofitable or poorly located stores in core Southern states.

The moves will cut the company's work force by 10,000, or about 10 percent. Some employees will be offered jobs at the chain's surviving stores, the company has said.


E-mail rtucker@enquirer.com


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