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Retailers

Western Supermarkets Discontinuing Operations

2 stores to be sold to Publix
Western Supermarkets Rocky Ridge Storefront
Photograph courtesy of Western Supermarkets

Western Supermarkets, a 70-year-old independent retailer with four stores in the Birmingham, Ala., area, said it is winding down operations this month.

Two of Western’s stores in Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills, Ala., will be sold to Publix Super Markets, according to the company, whose Western’s Highland Avenue store in Birmingham, which is destined for redevelopment, will close in coming weeks. Its Village Market in the East Lake area of Birmingham, which Western also owns, is for sale.

“When I became involved in ownership in 1987, our goal was to maintain Western as Birmingham’s leading independent grocer,” owner Ken Hubbard said in a statement. “With the help of the loyal and talented people on the Western team, we’ve achieved that goal. We’ve taken Western as far as we can.  It’s time to exit the business that has been my life’s work.”

Publix said the Mountain Brook store will reopen under its GreenWise Market banner in the third quarter of this year. The Vestavia Hills location will open as a Publix at a date to be determined.

Terms of the acquisition, which is expected to close in March, were not disclosed.

“Publix is always seeking locations where we can serve our customers and offer an exceptional shopping experience,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “This acquisition allows us to expand our presence in the Birmingham area, and we are very excited to bring one of our GreenWise Markets to this region.”

The more than 200 Western Market employees have been informed of the closures and encouraged to seek employment with Publix. “Many of our employees have worked at Western their entire careers. Treating them fairly, giving them plenty of notice, and helping them find employment is now our mission,” Hubbard said. “I am committed to that.”

Western said inventory reduction sales at its stores will begin Jan. 9, when wine will be priced at 20% off. The remaining inventory liquidation will begin Jan. 30.

Western was known for fresh foods and a long history of service in Birmingham. Its longtime president, Darwin Metcalf, was named Retailer of the Year by the Alabama Grocers Association in 2017.

“It is astounding how many peopledoctors, lawyers, business-leaders and the current mayor of Birminghamhad their first job at Western,” said Hubbard, who began with the company as a bagger in 1960. “Our people made Western a special place for our customers. They will continue to provide that same level of service, wherever they work.”

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