By Danny Schrafel
Waldbaum’s employees are cautiously optimistic that new ownership will bring brighter days to the Huntington village store.
The supermarket, located at 60 Wall St., is one of 25 stores owned by The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company in the greater New York metro region being purchased by Stop & Shop in a $146 million deal announced Monday.
All Waldbaum’s employees “will have job opportunities” to work at the re-branded Stop & Shop, New York Metro spokeswoman Arlene Putterman said Wednesday, adding that, like A&P, Stop & Shop is a union supermarket.
Despite the union label, a longtime staffer said Wednesday that many are unhappy with working conditions at Waldbaum’s.
Employees have worked without a contract for more than eight years, he said, and acquiesced to salary and vacation givebacks when A&P declared bankruptcy in late 2010 with hopes of helping A&P reach solvency. Then came the announcement on Sunday.
“We’re the soldiers. It’s the captain that’s the problem,” he said with a laugh.
The sale of the Huntington Waldbaum’s, located at 60 Wall St., is part of a plan by A&P to divest itself of a total of 120 stores, worth approximately $600 million, and close 25 others. As of Wednesday, no plans had emerged to sell or close the Pathmark in Dix Hills or the Waldbaum’s on Route 110 in Melville as part of the restructuring.
In a message on Local 338’s Retail, Wholesale, Department Store Union and the United Food and Commercial Workers website, the union, which represents Waldbaum’s workers in Huntington, said that the judge handling the bankruptcy case suggested that “the buyers of the 120 stores and the union work out a deal on the new stores in a quick manner.”
“We know that this is a stressful time for you and your family but we want you to know that we are doing everything we can to ensure the best outcome for our members,” the statement from union leaders reads. “While we can’t make promises, please know we are doing everything in our power to ensure that the future buyers of the remaining A&P stores are union operators and understand that they are not just investing in a store but also in the UFCW/RWDSU members who work in that store.”
Word of the sale came after A&P announced it had filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Sunday, July 19. A day later, Stop & Shop announced it would buy 25 stores.
“We selected these stores based on our presence in the area and our customer base and what was going to be the perfect fit for us. We felt Huntington fit the bill,” Putterman said.
The Huntington village Waldbaum’s opened in 1983, after the Century Lanes bowling center closed in June of that year. The transition from bowling center to supermarket was controversial, and was met by official opposition from the Huntington Town Board and protests from Huntington bowlers.
Among those who spoke out against the change were Andy Varipapa, one of the sport’s all-time greats and best-known entertainers, who bowled there several days a week while living in Huntington Bay in his 80s and 90s.