Pathmark stores in Egg Harbor Township and Manahawkin will close by mid-March, costing about 165 employees their jobs, a local union president said.
The financially troubled grocery chain informed employees Monday the locations were among 14 stores slated to close to cut costs in federal bankruptcy protection.
In the region, the closing announcement dealt another blow to a wilting grocery store presence in the past year and the past week.
Genuardi's supermarkets in Egg Harbor and Barnegat townships are being offered for sale, parent company Safeway Inc. said last week.
And SuperFresh stores in Hammonton and Cape May Court House were shuttered last spring.
Pathmark is owned by the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2010. The parent also operates under the Super Fresh brand, A&P and others.
The stores slated to close are Pathmarks, Waldbaums and A&Ps in four states, said Marcy Connor, a spokeswoman for A&P.
"This was unexpected but not a surprise," said Brian String, president of United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, Local 152 in Hammonton. "Both these stores were on the watch list, but we thought the (renegotiated contracts) bought us time."
Unions in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Delaware renegotiated existing labor agreements, offering wage freezes and other concessions to help keep stores afloat.
In a statement, the company said the 14 stores were underperforming and the decision was part of its turnaround plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection.
The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., which has more than 330 stores and about 36,000 employees in six states, reported a net loss of $25 million in a four-week period between Oct. 9 and Nov. 5, according to unaudited figures filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
"Their determination is they still could not turn a profit in these stores," said String, who blamed the company for failing to modernize or remodel the stores.
The Atlantic County Pathmark is actually in Egg Harbor Township, but is generally referred to as the Pleasantville Pathmark. The grocery has another location in Ventnor.
"The Pleasantville store in particular has not been remodeled in many years. It is very dated location and the company did nothing to modernize it at all, nothing to make it competitive with the ShopRites of the world," he said.
That store is only a few miles from a Genuardi's being offered for sale.
String said the union is hoping to bring ShopRite or another potential buyer to at least one of those locations.
Meanwhile, some senior employees at the Pleasantville location will have bumping rights at the nearby Pathmark in Ventnor, String said.
Bumping rights allow senior employees the opportunity to take jobs at nearby locations, essentially displacing others with less seniority.
People shopping for groceries Monday evening at the Egg Harbor Township Pathmark said they don't believe that the store is "underperforming." Most said the closing would be an inconvenience.
"I don't believe the Pathmark in Ventnor is outselling this one," said Sabu Townsel, of Galloway Township, who shops there to buy groceries for her mother in Atlantic City. "Too many people use it. It's been here too long."
Underperforming, "with all these people here?" asked Mary Stevens, of Pleasantville.
Stevens said she shops at the Pathmark because it's near her home.
"If they close this one, we'll have to go out of the way to shop," she said.
Catina Key, of Pleasantville, said she doesn't understand why the store would close, because it seems to make a lot of money.
"I think it's horrible, because we don't have any supermarkets around here now," Key said.
She does not have a car, and if this store closes, Key said, she would have to take the bus to the ShopRite in Absecon for groceries.
Denise Cramer, of Egg Harbor Township, said she does most of her grocery shopping at ShopRite, but occasionally stops at the Pathmark on the way home from her job in Atlantic City.
"I'm shocked," Cramer said. "I have no choice but to go to another supermarket. I'll be really disappointed."
By Monday evening, a "support Pathmark employees" page on Facebook had garnered 1,656 "likes." Many posters wished the workers luck and said they would remember them in their prayers.
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