New sign coming

The Gordy’s Logo is among several over the years hanging over the front door of the grocery store in Barron. Another chapter of store history has now begun and a new sign soon will be welcoming shoppers—Family Fair. 

By Carl Cooley

Gordy’s Markets in Chetek, Barron, Cornell and Chippewa Falls will be rebranded as Family Fare Supermarkets under the new ownership of Nash Finch—also known as SpartanNash—according to a company spokeswoman.

“The stores will be converted to SpartanNash’s Family Fare® Supermarkets banner in the near future, with the goal of retaining all store-level associates at the stores,” said Meredith Gremel, vice president of corporate affairs and communications at Nash Finch. “The new stores will feature many of the banner’s offerings, including the “Yes” loyalty card, Savings Zone, 10/$10 Basket of Values and much more.”

The company owns 86 Family Fare Supermarkets in Minnesota, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. The closest Family Fare to Barron County is in Red Wing, Minn., according to an online search.

Gremel was asked about any changes to the stores, their layouts, product lines and prices or community involvement.

“SpartanNash is committed to building relationships in the communities it serves and looks forward to becoming a part of these new communities as well,” Gremel said, adding more details would come when available.

This will be the second time the grocery store in Barron has been owned by SpartanNash. The first time was in 1999 when SpartanNash purchased Erickson’s Diversified Corporation, which owned the More 4 Store in Barron, and renamed it Econofoods.

Later, in 2014, the store was bought by Mega Co-op. It was then acquired by Gordy’s Market in 2016 in a deal that traded Gordy’s Express gas stations for Mega Co-op grocery stores.

Chetek’s Kirkwoods IGA, owned by Tom and Jane Kurschner, was purchased by Gordy’s Market in 2012 and was known as Gordy’s County Market at the time.

Court approves sales

Referring to Nash Finch’s commitment to hiring “substantially all” employees, covering orphaned health plan claims from employees and honoring accrued vacation and benefits of the employees, Chippewa County Judge James Isaacson approved the sale of Gordy’s Market Inc. assets to Nash Finch on Friday, March 8.

In court filings, Carla Andres, an attorney for Nash Finch, said GMI did not have the revenue to pay Nash Finch and could not cover an estimated $174,425 in employee health care claims from a self-funded health insurance plan.

At the hearing, attorney Lauren Stanley, from the receiver Michael Polsky’s office, said in this case and the first Gordy’s receivership case, it had been up to the buyers to honor any employee PTO, not the receiver. In this case, Nash Finch had agreed to do so. Isaacson said that was a good thing for the employees and would help build a good relationship with them and the company.

Stanley told Issacson that an agreement had been reached earlier Friday morning to withdraw three objections to the sale motion.

Tom and Jane Properties LLC, which is the landlord to the Chetek store, consented to the sale as Nash Finch guaranteed the terms of the current lease. American Financial Network, which owns some leased equipment on Gordy’s properties, consented to the sale after Polsky abandoned any interest to the equipment. Gordy’s counterclaim against Nash Finch was dismissed and both agreed an independent examiner was not needed to review the counterclaim.

Bill Jacobs, vice president of treasury and corporate development at Nash Finch, affirmed to the court his company approved purchase of the GMI properties and no other objections were made in court.

Isaacson approved the sale, free and clear of all other liens, claims and encumbrances.

Nash Finch, a nationwide grocery distributor and Fortune 400 company based in Edina, Minn., was the only bidder in an auction held Wednesday, March 6, in Milwaukee. It won the sale with a credit bid of $15.1 million. Sale procedures said the sale closing would take place in Milwaukee soon after it was approved by the court.

GMI owned stores in Chetek, Barron, Cornell, Ladysmith and two in Chippewa Falls. The court previously approved on Feb. 20 the sale of the Ladysmith Gordy’s to Great Lakes Foods, based in Michigan, for a price of $27,000, plus inventory.

According to published news reports, the Eau Claire Gordy’s—which was not supplied by Nash Finch—is still owned by Gordy’s Market Inc., but is in talks to sell to Hansen’s IGA.

Claims filed, claims to be paid

As part of the receivership, which is a type of corporate bankruptcy case, approximately 657 other creditors, employees, potential buyers and other interested buyers were informed of the case and told to file claims for owed money before the deadline of Wednesday, April 24.

As of March 8, there had been only 17 claims—a total of around $710,975—filed by creditors claiming money was owed for inventory, equipment, services rendered or taxes.

According to the sale report, the order of payments by the receiver will be taxes first, followed by costs and expenses for closing the sale, and then to Nash Finch as the secured creditor.

Taxes in the amount of $2,728 have been paid to the city of Ladysmith, and $65,731 in property taxes to Chippewa County would also be paid. It was not immediately known what closing costs will be associated with the sales.

Nash Finch claimed in December 2018 that GMI owed them more than $46 million for loans, grocery inventory and the breach of a customer service agreement. Other creditors would only get paid after Nash Finch’s claim was paid in full. After subtracting its credit bid of $15.1 million, there was still more than $31 million owed to Nash Finch.

That means it is nearly certain that other unsecured creditors will not see any money on their claims.