The potential sale of Price Chopper would be a big deal (and not just because of the price)

market32 madison ave albany exterior

The Madison Ave location in Albany, one of the company's small-format stores.

One of the big local news stories this week is the Reuters report that the parent company of Price Chopper is in "advanced talks" for a billion-dollar sale of the supermarket chain to Albertson's, a huge chain of chains headquartered out west.

The Reuters story is based on unnamed sources, and the central players are no-commenting it. (Neil Golub was a little more pointed in not addressing the story.) But the idea that the Golub Corp has been exploring some sort of sale or deal for Price Chopper/Market32 has popped up recently, most notably in a report in the trade journal Supermarket News this past August. And it fits with the overarching trend of consolidation withing the supermarket industry.

So, if a Price Chopper sale is in the works -- and that's still if -- it would be one of the biggest Capital Region news stories in recent years. Here are a few reasons why...

Price Chopper has a ton of stores here

Price Chopper/Market32 has more than 130 stores across New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. Of that total, more than 40 of the stores are in the greater Capital Region -- and 28 of them are in the Capital Region's four core counties.

It holds the top spot for market share in the Albany metro, and the #2 spot in many surrounding metros.

Also, another key bit about the number of Price Chopper's stores here is some of them are smaller-format, urban stores -- the sorts of stores that many chains don't build these days. And many of these stores are in areas that would be (even further) underserved by supermarkets if the stores weren't there.

Price Chopper is one of the area's biggest employers

Between all those stores and the Golub Corp headquarters in Schenectady, the company employs more than 8,200 people in the area, according to figures released by the state earlier this year.

That total makes Price Chopper one of the area's third-largest private employer, behind only St. Peter's Health Parnters and Albany Medical Center.

The company's roots are long and deep

As you probably know, Price Chopper is a hometown company. Lewis Golub -- an immigrant -- founded a store in Schenectady in 1900. And it grew from there first into a wholesaler, and then eventually what we'd now recognize as a modern supermarket. By the end of the 1950s, "Central Market" had 25 locations here. And in the 1970s it changed its name to Price Chopper. And the chain is in the process of modernizing, and changing its name, again as Market32.

Throughout the company's history it's been privately held, and largely led by members of the Golub family. The current CEO -- Scott Grimmett, named to the job this past January -- is first non-Golub to hold the role. (Grimmett came over to Golub Corp in 2012 after more than three decades with Safeway, which is owned by... Albertson's.)

Along the way, many members of the Golub family have been prominent figures in the Capital Region, donating money to various institutions and serving on boards. Heck, it's a local tradition that Neil Golub pops up on local TV every holiday season to show people how to carve a turkey, like he's the Capital Region's grandfather.

In large part because of all that history, the chain holds a unique spot in the culture of this area. Just look at all the local chatter the Price Chopper-Market32 name change generated. Not a lot of institutions have that sort of position in the local collective consciousness.

A Capital Region with a not-locally-owned Price Chopper is uncharted history

Here's another way to think about this possible sale: For the entire history of modern supermarkets, a span of something like six or seven decades, Price Chopper has been a prominent player -- pretty much the prominent player -- in the local supermarket scene. And the fact that it's been locally owned has probably played a not-small role in keeping it that way.

If the Price Chopper chain is sold, it probably won't mean much change -- at first. But it's also easy to imagine that the whole scene gets a shake-up eventually. Maybe the new megacorp owner isn't as committed to those small-format stores. Maybe a private equity-backed buyer shows more interest in cutting costs and jobs. And/or maybe other competitors -- like, say, a certain family-owned Rochester-based chain that may or may not have some sort of unofficial family-to-family agreement to not set up here -- sees a chance to come here and grab market share.

A non-local Price Chopper will be something the Capital Region has never seen. And that's going to be at least a little bit weird.
____

Earlier on AOA: Supermarket Week 2016

+ Supermarket Showdown 2016
+ Giving ALDI a try
+ Recalling the grocery stores of Albany's past
+ What's a bit of supermarket shopping savvy that you can share?
+ Talking supermarkets with an industry analyst

Comments

...and the many charitable contributions Price Chopper makes throughout the capital region...

...Bring on change and bring on Wegmans!!!!

"And/or maybe other competitors -- like, say, a certain family-owned Rochester-based chain that may or may not have some sort of unofficial family-to-family agreement to not set up here -- sees a chance to come here and grab market share."

Wegmans has one of its distribution centers in the Rochester area. I've been told that its trucks pass right by Albany on their way to supplying Wegmans stores in Massachusetts.

@T -- I was thinking the same thing. Regardless of what you think of the Price Choppers as a shopping experience, PC sure does underwrite an awful lot of public events around the Capital District.

I know some people get excited when they hear that some chain from outside the area is coming to the Capital Region, but I'm not one of them. Local businesses mean local dollars; the money stays here rather than going to a corporate headquarters far, far away. If Price Chopper is sold to an outside company - especially a company that answers to its stockholders more than its customers - that could have a huge impact.

It's not a surprise that this news is out. One way to tell if a company is looking to sell is when they decrease/become more stingy with their charitable giving. While PC still does donate to quite a large number of organizations, their overall giving, and amount given, has drastically dropped over the past 5 years. The amount they give our organization dropped 75% since 2012. Usually a tell-tell sign, and internally we sort of waited for this kind of news to come out.

Bye bye Price Chopper. The 2 stores near me have lost my business due to over priced items, lack of products I want, lack of cleanliness of products shelves and produce area, way out of date prodicts on shelves, undesirable chatter between their employees that customers can clearly hear, clearly poor store employee morale, poor customer services, lack of employee training and the list goes on....

It just seems strange to put all this money and effort in the huge rebrand and remodel of so many of your stores only to sell halfway through.

The comments by 'M' about Price Chopper employees are right on the money. I recently visited a Market 32 for the first time, and was not impressed. They built a beautiful store with great amenities, but staffed it with employees who I wouldn't trust to run a lemonade stand.

Not to go on about Wegmans again, but here's the big difference: the people at Wegmans act like they really care about the customers.

Price Chopper may be a large employer in the area. But what's the median wage for those employees? Do they receive healthcare and other benefits?

I did a stint at a Price Chopper during college break and I was mandated to work just under the weekly hours that would make me full-time. And the pay was the rock-bottom minimum. I was eligible for food stamps. These aren't the kinds of "jobs" that help our community, they strain it.

In defense of Price Chopper employees and customer service: At least at the Slingerlands PC, every employee is now saying hello to me. It happened suddenly starting a couple of months ago -- like there was some kind of store-wide customer service training. It's sort of nice until the 8th employee says hello and then it feels a bit overwhelming. The real problem with Price Chopper's customer service is that nobody can provide information about the food, but that is pretty much the case for all chain supermarkets.

@Sean -- what you say is basically true for the "progressive, community-minded" Honest Weight Food Co--op as well.

The whole "employees saying hello" thing must be across all the stores and the result of new training. They do it at the Delaware Avenue store, too. I'll be greeted at least ten times between the front door and the self-service check-outs. It doesn't mean I'll actually shop there more beyond picking up iced tea or a bag of onions. In general, the selection is worse than before the Market 32 change and the price/quality ratio is poor.

Speaking of Price Chopper charitable giving.... They put their name on Holiday Lights event and yet it charges $20 per car (!) for entry and requires volunteers (!!) to set up, tear down and run the thing.

I work for Acme Markets in NJ which was brought by Albertsons in 2013!! Albertsons backed by Cerberus has spent money to remodel and open new stores in all its divisons. Last year when A&P went bankrupt, Acme purchased 76 A&P stores in NJ, PA, DE,MD ,CT, of which 18 are in NY, in Westchester, Dutchess, and Putman counties, the lower Hudson valley !! This returned Acme to NY as Acme up to the late 70's had stores throughout NY state in the areas of buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton, Utica/Rome up to Watertown, Malone, Canton, many areas which Price Chopper now encompasses!! If this was to occur Price Choppers offices will I am sure will remain in place!! Buying and management will remain in place!! As far as distribution warehouses I cant imagine shipping goods from either ACME DC in Lancaster Pa or Shaws DC In Massachusetts!!! In fact I would bet all 22 NY and Ct Acme stores could be served by Price Choppers DC, just getting over the GW bridge at times takes 60-90 mins from NJ to NY

One other possibility is that present upper Price Chopper management, esp , Golub family could remain in place !! Albertsons I believe in 2014 brought a chain in Texas, United, based in Amarillo, the Ceo is still in place and runs the chain independent of Albertson',s they even make their own real estate decisions separately!!! I kinda feel if Price Chopper is sold, this will happen as well!!! I will say this,this afternoon I took a ride to the closest Price Chopper to me in NJ in ,Marshalls Creek, Pa, I was blown away how well stocked and neat the store is, service depts. were fresh looking, the décor of the store was the nicest of any chain I have seen, this includes, WEGMANS, of which I have been to 6 in NJ and MD!! Just walking in made u want to shop the whole store!! I have no idea what a market32 looks like, although small town stores should stick to price chopper format!!

Tough issue.

I really like the idea of locally-owned or at least regionally-owned businesses. Price Chopper has, traditionally, been very good with charitable contributions. I did not know that had changed in recent years; that's sad to hear.

Having said that, every time I go in a Wegman's I am stunned at how much better they are.

All the complaints about Price Chopper and the prospect of some new company coming in and improving existing conditions; don't hold your breath. Say what you want about the PC shopping experience, it's a local company that does a lot of good for our local communities. And what is supposedly replacing that? A similar, if not worse shopping experience, with no local representation http://6abc.com/food/consumer-reports-nations-best-worst-supermarkets/618788/

Price Chopper is a great friend and neighbor to our community! I am the Chair of The Albany Police Athletic League (PAL) and very grateful that Price Chopper is our title sponsor for Capital Holiday Lights in Washington Park.

PAL's mission to serve Albany's kids has been supported by Price Chopper for years and we hope our partnership continues to flourish for many years!
David Bauer
Chair PAL

@Sean...I'm so glad you mentioned this. PC has been doing that for years to get away with not giving benefits. I laugh at people who refuse to shop at Walmart yet have no clue PC is right up there with being stingy with employees. At least Walmart isn't overpriced like PC.

Employees are recently saying hello and asking if you need help to your car because PC is scared! Aldi has taken a huge portion of their sales and they know it. A year ago you would have to bag your own groceries and now they want to walk me to my car...it's comical.

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