The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

July 19, 2013

Belle Foods seeks to sell Athens Piggly Wiggly, 12 other stores

— Birmingham-based Belle Foods is reportedly seeking to sell 13 of its stores in Alabama, including the Piggly Wiggly in Athens.

The supermarket chain operates 57 stores in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi under the names of Food World, Piggly Wiggly and Belle Foods. The company also employs about 2,850 people, according to published media reports.

An attempt to reach a spokesperson with Belle Foods was unsuccessful Friday.

On July 1, the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. According to documents filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Alabama, the company owes Southern Family Markets $28 million. Belle Foods bought some of its stores from Southern Family Markets. The company owes C&S Wholesale Grocers $6 million, and also has about $8 million due in other accounts payable.

The Athens Piggly Wiggly is the only North Alabama location on the list of stores the company seeks to sell. The rest are in South Alabama and two locations in Mississippi.

The bankruptcy filing was the latest in a string of diminishing returns for the store. In April, the company — which once ran Bruno's and Food World stores in the Birmingham area — announced plans to hire 300 part-time workers at its stores in Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi to replace full-time workers in a cost saving move.

Company officials have said a decline in business, technical issues with its accounting system and concerns over its lending structure and relationships all factored into the decision to file for bankruptcy.

“Additionally, higher payroll taxes in 2013 have led to a decline in purchases by the (Belle's) customer base,” the filing said. Company officials added that competition in several of its markets from other grocers didn't help the situation either.

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