Mark (mhaithaca) wrote,

Transition Week

As others have commented, the shelves at the P&C at East Hill Plaza have started to look thin the last couple of weeks! Since Penn Traffic declared bankruptcy in November, they've been operating the stores but have understandably been having trouble with some vendors. But the worst of it should be over. The P&C sale to Tops appears to have closed today, so the stores should start to be able to buy from vendors on Tops's credit again shortly. I'd bet on Monday at the latest.

Changing HandsI do feel sorry for the store staff members, though, who are all still in limbo. They also lose a nice benefit that Penn Traffic had been giving them, an employee discount that Tops doesn't offer. But as one of the managers admitted to me this evening, they at least have jobs, for now.

There's really very little chance they'll close the EHP store, since it's regularly been one of Penn Traffic's top five performers. It's the only supermarket on east hill, and it's surrounded by several populated areas. Yes, lots of people like Wegmans and travel there rather than shopping near their homes, but the store does well with people who like shopping near home as well as with people picking a couple of things up on the way home.

I'm a little more worried about the Hancock store, on Ithaca's northside, since it's commonly called the "ghetto P&C" for the lousy shape it's in; it hasn't been renovated or upgraded much in years. It's also the only supermarket in its neighborhood, and its area has many residents who can't drive to Wegmans, even though the southwest stores aren't that far away. (They won't do too badly getting to Aldi, I guess.) I'm hoping it will continue to do well enough over the next month, while Tops is considering which stores to keep open, that this neighborhood won't lose its supermarket.

As for the Cayuga Mall store, it's right across the street from an existing Tops. That means it hasn't been a solid performer since the Tops opened in 2001, and obviously Tops won't want to compete with themselves. I know lots of people who prefer the P&C up there, though, so I'm hoping there'll be a store there when the dust settles.

Tops has said they haven't decided what to call the newly acquired stores. They bought Penn Traffic, so they could continue using their P&C, Bi-Lo, or other names. They could, if they wanted, run two stores across the street from each other using different names. But I think it's more likely they'd sell that store to another chain (Price Chopper might be interested) or just shut it down. The mall developer might manage to find another anchor store that could move in, or it could be subdivided the way the old A&P location in Triphammer Mall was divvied up eventually; that space now houses Ithaca Coffee Company and Triphammer Wines & Spirits, both of which moved from much smaller spaces in the same mall, and the shiny new Kinney Drugs.

My guess is that even if they decide to rebadge the former P&C stores, they won't do it for at least a month, since they officially haven't decided which stores to keep open and won't for a month. So, we won't be seeing shiny Tops signs going up this weekend. I do suspect Penn Traffic's weekly ad circulars will stop showing up, though, and it wouldn't surprise me if the former P&Cs started offering Tops specials and taking the Bonus Club cards next week. I'm sure the store staffs have no idea yet, though. They really seem to be getting very little info, maybe even less than I've gotten with a few simple contacts to the Tops press folks. We shall see.

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