Ukrop's community impact: More than a grocery store

By Rachel DePompa - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Ukrop's has 28 stores and 6,000 employees but the implications for the community could be far more reaching. We've talked to employees Wednesday, who tell us they hear Harris Teeter is the buyer and the deal could as early as September.

They also say Ukrop's is no longer matching their 401K plans. Ukrop's is not commenting, but that's not stopping the buzz.

The following statement has been posted in Ukrop's and is a letter to the employees from Robert Ukrop:

"There has been a lot of speculation in the last few days about the future of Ukrop's," he wrote. "All of this is based on rumors, anonymous blog postings, and industry chatter. Anything I say at this point would just add fuel to the fire." - Robert Ukrop, President and CEO

For Richmonders, Ukrop's is not just a grocery chain. It's a house hold name and one of the city's most charitable organizations.

"They give to so many charities and so many organizations in town. That everyone in the nonprofit world would be impacted," said Jon Lugbill, Executive Director of Sports Backers.

Sports backers is a non-profit, Bobby Ukrop's helped to found 18 years ago.

"The Ukrops family and the whole supermarket chain has been incredibly generous. They give more away as a percentage of their profits than any other company in town," said Lugbill.

Every year the company sponsors the Monument Avenue 10K and the Richmond Christmas Parade. They've given more than $5 million to the CenterStage Foundation. A board member says the project would not be possible without Ukrop's involvement.

"This is a family that has given and given and given to this community over the past so many years," said David Urban, VCU Professor of Marketing.

He's heard the rumors for months, but says the time may finally be right for a sale.

"They've been squeezed at the low in the market by the Food Lions and the Wal-Mart's and the Costco's of the world. They're also getting squeezed at the high end of the market by some of these specialty retailers that have been coming in chipping off pieces of their loyal customer base," said Urban.

Urban says the store is financially sound, but... "There's no harm in looking," he said.

Another sign tonight, Harris Teeter is said to be the front runner. That company is building a one-hundred million dollar distribution center in King George County right now. All we are told is it's supposed to be used for current stores and future expansion in Virginia.

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