Albertsons/Safeway mix wins 12 Washington Haggen stores

The Uptown Gig Harbor Haggen store will revert to a Safeway or Safeway affiliate, according to court documents.
The Uptown Gig Harbor Haggen store will revert to a Safeway or Safeway affiliate, according to court documents. Staff photographer

What’s old may be new again.

Court documents filed Friday in the Haggen supermarket chain bankruptcy case reveal that Albertsons was the successful bidder for 12 Washington Haggen stores that had gone on the block.

The documents also propose that six of the auctioned stores be branded as Albertsons stores and six as Safeway stores.

Albertsons owns Safeway, and it was that merger that led the Federal Trade Commission to order the company to divest itself of Albertsons or Safeway stores that were near one another. Haggen acquired 146 West Coast stores that regulators required be sold.

▪ Stores in Everett, Shoreline, Port Orchard and Renton will wear the Safeway brand, as will the store near Spanaway at 15805 Pacific Ave. S. and in Gig Harbor at 4831 Point Fosdick Dr. NW.

▪ Stores in Monroe, Burien (two outlets) and Renton will become Albertsons stores, as will stores in Puyallup, at 11012 Canyon Rd. E., and in Milton at 2800 Milton Way.

The one Washington store in the auction that did not go to Albertsons is in Liberty Lake, where the prevailing bidder was Yoke’s Foods.

One customer at the Milton Haggen store welcomed the news that Albertsons might return.

“It’s like a dream, like that ‘Dallas’ episode. I hope it’s like a dream,” said Lori Neckermann, an Edgewood resident.

She said she appreciated having both Albertsons and Safeway nearby.

“The nice thing was, if Safeway didn’t have it, Albertsons did. They were different stores,” she said. “I want everybody to keep their jobs. I want the Starbucks to come back.”

Neckermann was not alone in welcoming Friday’s news.

Gig Harbor Mayor Jill Guernsey said in a statement, “The city of Gig Harbor is thrilled to hear that Safeway will be returning to Gig Harbor. We are confident that this store will once again be a tremendous success for the entire community, and we look forward to helping them reopen as Safeway as soon as possible.”

Gig Harbor Councilmember Steve Ekberg echoed the mayor’s comments, stating that residents “loved Safeway, and they will be very happy to have the store back.”

In a release late Friday afternoon, Haggen spokeswoman Deborah Pleva reported that two California buyers, Gelson’s Markets and Smart & Final LLC, had purchased “certain assets” at eight stores and 28 stores respectively, for $36 million and $56 million respectively.

Of the 55 other stores for which bids were accepted, the total ran to “more than $47 million,” Pleva said.

She also reported that Haggen would submit the results of the auction for approval to the bankruptcy court Nov. 24.

Tom Geiger, communications director at United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21, said Friday that that next steps are unclear.

“The court needs to be able to approve the winning bids, and I think that will happen next week,” he said. “It’s a little unclear how quickly a transition happens. Our hope is that Albertsons will have a good transition.”

Geiger’s union local represents grocery workers in the Puget Sound region.

“From our viewpoint, it brings stability back to the workers’ lives,” said Nathe Lawver, communications director at UFCW Local 367, which represents workers in Pierce County.

Lawver spent part of the day Friday visiting with union members.

He said he is telling them that “right now we need to sort through what the agreement is for the sale. Our legal department is reviewing this.”

He said he visited a store on Pacific Avenue in Olympia, “one that survived the cut, and they’re happy to be a part of a company that supports and honors union contracts. They will have a sense of stability and control that they haven’t seen in a year.”

Financial details of the winning bids for each store was not disclosed in court documents. But in an earlier document, Haggen reported that Albertsons’ starting bid for Haggen’s Northeast Fourth Street location in Renton was $1.7 million, while its opening offer for the First Avenue South store in Burien was $1. The starting bid for the Gig Harbor store was listed earlier this week at $500,000.

Haggen also identified backup bidders in case the winning bidder doesn’t fulfill its agreement to buy the stores, but that seems unlikely in the case of Albertsons, which now operates more than 2,200 stores across 33 states.

In Washington, out of the 18 stores up for auction, five received no bids, The Seattle Times reported Friday. Those stores are in Federal Way, Aberdeen, Silverdale, Bremerton and the store at 111 S. 38th St. in Tacoma.

Auction results of the former Haggen stores in California, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon show a variety of high bidders, including Smart & Final and Sprouts.

Haggen disclosed this week that it also plans to offer for sale its 32 “core” stores in the Northwest in a separate auction in January. The company and its private-equity backer, Comvest, may be among the bidders and could manage to hold on to those stores.

C.R. Roberts: 253-597-8535

The Seattle Times and The Bellingham Herald contributed to this report.