Long lines of shoppers stretched into the aisles at a Gaithersburg Magruder’s Supermarket grocery store after the chain announced Jan. 16 that it would sell its four remaining stores.
Gary Bortnick, vice president of the supermarket chain confirmed in a release obtained by The Gazette that the owners are “currently in negotiations to sell the remaining four locations to a group who wishes to purchase the individual stores and to reopen them as quickly as possible and we are working diligently with all parties involved.”
Magruder’s first opened its doors in 1875. In 1967 the late Louis H. Fanaroff and Stanford Steppa bought the two Magruder’s stores and opened more. In 2005, there were 10 Magruder’s stores in the region, the Gazette previously reported. Six stores closed over the past eight years, the latest, a Magruder’s store in Silver Spring last July.
The chain’s four remaining grocery stores are located in Gaithersburg, Rockville, Alexandria, Va. and Vienna, Va.
“We’re obviously very saddened by the events. It’s a difficult circumstance for every employee,” said Mark P. Federici, president of United Commercial Food Workers Union Local 400, which represents 85 Magruder’s employees in the greater Washington, D.C., area. He said the union will be doing whatever it can to assist employees.
He emphasized how much the union has enjoyed its relationship with Magruder’s over the years, describing the business as “part of the Washington landscape.”
Signs reading “Special Sale, 50% off” were posted in every aisle and on the store’s windows on Jan. 16. Shoppers pushed carts full of beer, wine, nonperishables and frozen foods as they slowly made their way through the checkout lines.
“It’s always bad when you lose a local family institution,” said Steve Silverman, director of the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development. “We’re happy we’ve got large national chains and grocery stores in our community, but it’s always better to have local community-based institutions.”
The president of the Gaithersburg-Germantown Chamber of Commerce, Marilyn Balcombe, foresees some hardships that will come with the stores’ sale.
“It does place a burden on the various shopping centers where Magruder’s is. I think that local communities will have a difficult time in the transition,” she said.
Silverman praised Magruder’s as a “great” family institution with a ”long, great track record” in the region.
Representatives of the company were unable to discuss details of the sale negotiation Jan. 16. A Magruder’s liquor store on Connecticut Avenue in the Chevy Chase neighborhood of Washington, D.C., has been sold and will continue to operate under the Magruder’s name, according to Bortnick.
In a letter, Bortnick thanked the stores’ staff and said the decision to sell was a difficult one to make after purchasing the chain 46 years ago.
“Now is the right time for our family to move on,” Bortnick said.