Food Fella Online: Fairway files for bankruptcy protection, secures financing for potential sale

For the past several years, financial troubles have plagued Fairway Market, the specialty gourmet grocer born in New York City that spread out to 14 stores, including two in New Jersey.

Now, Fairway Market, together with certain of its affiliates, announced it has filed a voluntary petition under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code to complete its strategic sale process. The company has entered into a stalking horse asset purchase agreement with Village Super Market Inc. to sell up to five New York City Fairway stores and its distribution center for approximately $70 million. In addition, the company will execute a court-supervised sale process for its remaining store locations. An Ad Hoc Group of the company’s senior lenders are supportive of the sale process and have agreed to provide the company with up to $25 million in debtor-in-possession financing.

Fairway Market will continue to conduct business and serve customers at its stores across the tri-state area, and expects no interruption in service during the court-supervised process.

“We would like to extend gratitude to our employees, vendors, distributors and customers for their support, dedication and loyalty over the years. It has always been Fairway’s priority to ensure our patrons are provided with the most optimal grocery experience, with the freshest foods and best quality products, and our employees feel appreciated,” CEO Abel Porter said. “After careful consideration of all alternatives, we have concluded that a court-supervised sale process is the best way to meet our objectives of preserving as many jobs as possible, maximizing value for our stakeholders and positioning Fairway for long term success under new ownership.”

New Jersey based Village Super Market, one of the largest members of Wakefern Food Corp., operates a chain of ShopRite supermarkets along with the recently purchased Gourmet Garage banner of specialty markets in the Northeast.

“Perry and Nick Sumas opened the first Village Market in 1937, and our family continues to believe deeply in the importance of neighborhood grocery stores. We appreciate that Fairway’s loyal customers are concerned about the future, and, if we are successful in our bid, we are committed to keeping Fairway, including its name, unique product selection and value, a part of this community,” CEO Robert Sumas said.

Fairway Market has operated as a unique food retailer, offering customers a differentiated one-stop shopping experience as “The Place to Go Fooding.” Fairway has been a well-known food destination in the greater New York City metropolitan area for gourmet, and recently expanded with the opening of the Cooking Place, a cooking school, in June 2019. The mix it has traditionally offered consists of an extensive selection of fresh, natural and organic products, prepared foods and hard-to-find specialty and gourmet offerings, along with a full assortment of conventional groceries. In March 2009, Fairway’s modest expansion moved across the Hudson to Paramus and then, in 2012, it opened its second New Jersey location in a shuttered Pathmark location in Woodland Park.

But its struggles truly illustrate the extremely competitive nature of our metro area’s retail food industry, as players like Wegman’s, Lidl, Aldi, ShopRite/Wakefern and even Stew Leonard’s all step up their game with new stores and different product assortments and banners as they look to attract and keep consumers shopping in their stores.

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