06/22/05 — Three Winn-Dixies slated to close in county

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Three Winn-Dixies slated to close in county

By Staff and Wire
Published in News on June 22, 2005 1:45 PM

The closing of three Winn-Dixie grocery stores in Wayne County will put more than 200 people out of work, said company officials.

The supermarket chain announced Tuesday that it plans to shut down more than a third of its stores and cut 22,000 jobs as it tries to emerge from bankruptcy.

The company will completely cease operations in four states -- North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. It will trim operations in the five remaining states in which it operates -- Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Terry Derreberry, a spokesman for Winn-Dixie's corporate headquarters said most of the company's stores employ about 70 people.

The three stores in Wayne County are located on Berkeley Boulevard, Wayne Memorial Drive and U.S. 117 South.

Wayne County economic development and chamber of commerce officials could not be reached for comment.

Winn-Dixie said it will close or sell 326 of its 913 stores in the coming months.

"We made a very detailed announcement and I am confident we are making the right decision," said Peter Lynch, company president and CEO.

The company, which also has stores in the Bahamas, said it will try to find buyers for the closing stores and ask the new owners to retain as many employees as possible.

In a statement, Winn-Dixie also said it will try to sell six dairy plants, its pizza plant in Montgomery, Ala., and its Chek Beverage/Deep South Products plant in Fitzgerald, Ga., which produces Chek soda, shelf-stable juices and condiments.

If buyers are not found, Winn-Dixie said it would continue to operate the Chek Beverage plant and its Hammond, La., and Plant City, Fla., dairies.

The company also said it's working to find a third party to produce elsewhere the items made at its Astor Products plant in Jacksonville and the condiments at the Deep South plant. Those plants will then be closed.

Lynch had said for months that the reorganized company must be smaller and he said it was difficult to determine which stores to close.

Winn-Dixie is leaving a number of larger markets, including Atlanta, Augusta and Savannah in Georgia; Charleston, Columbia and Greenville-Spartanburg in South Carolina; Charlotte, Greensboro, High Point and Raleigh-Durham in North Carolina; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Columbus, Tupelo and Jackson in Mississippi and Alexandria, La.

An announcement on corporate restructuring will be made later this summer.

Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resources Group in New York, said he doesn't believe the changes will save Winn-Dixie, which must still battle Publix Super Markets and Wal-Mart.

"They really need to close over 500," Flickinger said. "Sadly, they cut too far at corporate headquarters and haven't sufficiently cut the number of stores."

Winn-Dixie, which filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 21, is No. 182 on the 2005 Fortune 500 list of the country's largest corporations.