Two months after it filed bankruptcy, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company announced it will close 32 of its stores in the tri-state area, including the on Main Street in Farmingdale. While the news affects many people in the , one group is particularly struggling with the closure, according to the mayor.
“The news of the store closing is not hitting the seniors well,” said . “They are most vulnerable. I have met with the director of Hardscrabble to work on this situation. We already have in place an agreement with the cab companies which offer free rides anywhere in the village to senior citizens on Wednesdays. That started over the summer. We are working to see if we can get small vans and buses to set up shopping days for the seniors who will no longer be able to walk to the Waldbaum's right near their residence.”
The store's pharmacy is scheduled to close on Mar. 9, according to a recorded announcement on its phone line. The message also states that all prescriptions will be transferred to the Pathmark pharmacy on Hempstead Turnpike in Bethpage. While no official date has been confirmed by the corporate office for the store to close, some of the employees and union officials believe it will occur on or just after April 15. The news of the store's closing did not surprise the mayor.
“I was disappointed, yes, but certainly not surprised since the company is in bankruptcy,” Starkie said.
The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, which was founded in 1859, filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Dec. 12, 2010. It is the parent company not only to Waldbaum's but to A&P, Pathmark, the Food Emporium, Super Fresh, Best Cellars and Food Basics as well. The Montvale, New Jersey based company currently has 395 stores across eight states on the east coast and employees nearly 41,000 people. The company reports total sales of 8.8 billion in 2009 on its website.
Many of the employees of the store, who said they are not allowed to comment as to the situation, are hoping they will be able to be placed in other stores in the area, although one of the union's officials states nothing has been discussed with them at this point.
“The company has not indicated to us about placements and nothing has been said other than they will follow the terms of the contract,” said Joe Fontano, who has been the political director for five years for Local 338. “We are hoping we can get as many members placed as possible. The loss of any store is a lot, but we lost five stores with this announcement.”
In addition to the Farmingdale store, Local 338 is also losing the Waldbaum's in Smithtown. Between both stores, 160 union members are employed. The other three stores closing affects 170 members of the union. One store is located in Putnam County-A&P in Carmel-and two stores in Westchester County-A&P in Greenburg and Portchester.
The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company refused any further comment about closings except for the statement posted on their website.
“As part of our turnaround and our ongoing review of our store footprint, we have decided to close these 32 locations,” A&P president and CEO Sam Martin said. “While this was a very difficult decision that will unfortunately impact some of our customers, partners communities and employees, these action are absolutely necessary as we work to strengthen A&P's operation foundation and improve our performance. We will help our affected colleagues pursue other positions across the company should open positions be available.”
In addition to Waldbaum's, Farmingdale residents can also shop aton Motor Parkway, on Northwest Drive and on Route 109.