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01-02-04: One Big Bear store could have a buyer

Ole Fort IGA owner may buy Celina store on Logan Street

One of Celina’s two Big Bear grocery stores slated for closure could soon have a new owner.
If the sale is approved by Big Bear parent Penn Traffic Co. and a U.S. bankruptcy court watching over the company’s finances, the Big Bear at 725 W. Logan St., could become Logan Street IGA.
John Sutter, owner of Ole Fort IGA, 206 N. Wayne St., Fort Recovery, confirmed to The Daily Standard this week that he is pursuing purchase of the Big Bear store. It would be Sutter’s first expansion of his grocery business outside of Fort Recovery. Sutter started working at the Ole Fort grocery as a stockboy when he was 13 and later bought the business.
“We are in the process of buying it but there are a lot of hoops to jump through with the bankruptcy to get to that point,” Sutter said.
Local radio news reports that a sale is imminent or complete are erroneous, Sutter said, adding that he was “shocked” that such reports were airing without anyone from the radio station contacting him.
Both Celina Big Bear stores are targeted for closure in the near future although no final dates have been made public. Both stores are holding liquidation sales to empty their shelves.
The closures were a part of Penn Traffic’s plan to sell or close all 67 of its Big Bear stores to help it emerge from bankruptcy proceedings.
Penn Traffic operated 211 supermarkets under the Big Bear, Big Bear Plus, BiLo, P&C and Quality names before the latest round of announced closures. The decision also affects stores in New Bremen, St. Marys and Wapakoneta, where that city will be left without a major grocer after the Big Bear store closes.
The Big Bear closures will cost about 300 part- and full-time workers their jobs in Auglaize and Mercer counties. There were 31 full-time and 45 part-time positions at the two Celina stores combined.
It remains unclear if some workers at the Celina stores might be able to keep their jobs if Sutter successfully buys the Logan Street store. Sutter declined to discuss specifics of his new business venture until the deal is completed.
Big Bear employs 5,000 of the parent company’s 16,000 workers.
The company has until Jan. 29 to file a reorganization plan with the court but can ask for an extension if it needs one. The company has said it wants to quickly finish its reorganization.
This is the second time in four years that Penn Traffic has gone through bankruptcy reorganization.
Penn Traffic lost more than $324 million between 1994 and 1998 before declaring bankruptcy for the first time in 1999. It closed more than four dozen stores and shed $1.13 billion in debt by selling majority ownership to creditors.
— The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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The Standard Printing Company
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