Local

Haggen name to remain on 15 sold stores

The Haggen grocery store at Barkley Village in Bellingham, shown Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, will keep its name after being sold to Albertsons.
The Haggen grocery store at Barkley Village in Bellingham, shown Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, will keep its name after being sold to Albertsons. pdwyer@bellinghamherald.com

The Haggen name will remain at several of its stores sold to Albertsons, including the five in Whatcom County.

In a news release, the Bellingham-based grocer announced that 14 historic Haggen stores will continue to operate out of Bellingham under the Haggen banner, along with one converted location in Oak Harbor. The remaining 14 stores, which were previously divested by Albertsons, will transition over time back to the Albertsons name.

Haggen accepted Albertsons’ offer to buy the 29 core stores on Friday, March 11 for $106.1 million. It’s the latest step in Haggen’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy process.

“Our customers can be assured that the Haggen focus on sustainably sourced and locally produced products will not change. Haggen has operated as a partner to the communities it has so proudly served and will continue to do so. We thank our dedicated stores crews, loyal customers, vendors, partners and others that have supported us. We are looking ahead to a promising future,” said Haggen CEO John Clougher in the news release.

Albertsons also confirmed the announcement in a news release, saying that the 14 stores would operate separately with an office in Bellingham. The company said it plans to hire substantially all store employees and also honor existing labor agreements to staff the stores. The question of how many employees would stay in the Haggen corporate office was not addressed.

15 Number of Haggen’s 29 current stores that will retain the Haggen name; 14 will switch to the Albertsons banner.

Albertsons also wants to continue Haggen’s reputation for its community involvement and support of regional farms after the deal is completed. Albertsons chairman and CEO Bob Miller said that they plan to continue offering things that Haggen stores are known for — the local products in stores operated by the same local employees.

“Haggen’s original core group of Pacific Northwest stores set the gold standard in the markets they serve for quality fresh products and exceptional service,” Miller said.

Neither company commented beyond the news releases. The entire plan, including the purchase, is subject to the approval of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. A hearing on the sale is scheduled for 7 a.m. PST on Tuesday, March 29.

Keeping the name of an acquisition is not uncommon for Albertsons, whose parent company is Cerberus Capital Management. The grocer has more than 2,200 stores with 18 different banner names, including Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb and United Supermarkets.

The announced purchase of Haggen’s core stores on March 11 came the same week Albertsons announced that it was closing its store in the Birchwood neighborhood.

Albertsons spokesman Brian Dowling said that there was no connection between the two announcements, but didn’t elaborate on what led to the closure announcement.

The sale to Albertsons also brings closure to the end of what’s been a strange, complicated trip for the company. After being purchased by the Florida private equity firm Comvest Partners in 2011, Haggen purchased 146 Albertson/Safeway stores last December to help satisfy a Federal Trade Commission requirement for that merger to be completed. The Bellingham-based grocery struggled to convert those stores to the Haggen brand, leading to Albertsons and Haggen suing each other for damages, which was later resolved. Then came the Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sept. 8, followed by the closing and auctioning off of most of the stores Haggen had purchased.

HISTORIC HAGGEN STORES

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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