Tops, Price Chopper complete merger. What it means for shoppers and stores

Joseph Spector
New York State Team
The Tops market on Liberty Street in Penn Yan. The approved merger between Tops and Price Chopper requires the sale of 12 stores.

PENN YAN — Price Chopper/Market 32 and Tops Markets received approval Nov. 8 for their merger, and 12 stores will be sold as part of an agreement with state and federal officials to ensure competition in some small markets.

The two companies will still be managed locally by their respective leaders and continue with their current store names, but will be owned by a new parent company, Northeast Grocery, Inc.

The deal, first announced in February, brings together two of upstate New York's largest supermarket chains, with nearly 300 stores and about 30,000 full and part-time workers.

The deal was signed off by the Federal Trade Commission on Monday, Nov. 8.

“Now we can dedicate ourselves to bringing these two storied grocery chains together, leveraging best practices, developing new opportunities and finding efficiencies that will help us continue to deliver distinctive shopping experiences,” Scott Grimmett, the current Price Chopper/Market 32 president who will lead the new parent company, said in a statement.

The joint companies' blueprint will be so large across upstate New York that the FTC and the state Attorney General's office are mandating that the company divest and sell 12 stores to ensure competition in those regions.

The 12 Tops stores, including ones in Cooperstown, Cortland, Owego, and Rome, will be sold to C&S Wholesale Grocers, the Keene, New Hampshire-based chain.

C&S said it will convert the 12 stores — which also includes ones in Norwich, Peru, Saranac Lack, Sherrill, Warrensburg, two locations in Watertown and one in Rutland, Vermont —  to Grand Union supermarkets.

"With our recent announcement of the purchase of Piggly Wiggly Midwest, this is another very exciting opportunity for C&S to further expand into the retail market," Rick Cohen, executive chairman of C&S Wholesale Grocers, said in a statement.

"This is an important component of our growth and future success. The Grand Union stores will showcase C&S's already successful retail strategies and be supported by our strong wholesale supply chain and programs to deliver solid retail performance."

The Price Chopper supermarket in the Town of Poughkeepsie on Feb. 10, 2021.

The agreement to sell the stores is expected to close in the coming weeks, and the grand openings are planned for mid-January through mid-February. C&S said it will continue to recognize the union workforce at the locations.

“We believe that this merger will be a positive for our membership, preserving union jobs and strengthening the company’s prospects into the foreseeable future,” said Frank DeRiso, president of the UFCW Local One, said in a statement.

Attorney General Letitia James said Price Chopper and Tops largely do not compete head-to-head in most areas. But in communities where they do, there were concerns that the merger would have eliminated a direct supermarket competitor. So, by requiring the sale of the 12 stores to C&S, which is the largest private wholesale grocery distributor in the country, those areas will continue to have a competitive market to help customers, James said.

“It’s simple: More choices and competition at the supermarket mean better prices and more savings for consumers,” James said in a statement.

Northeast Grocery will be headquartered in Schenectady, which will remain the home for Price Chopper/Market 32. Tops Markets will retain its main office in Williamsville, Erie County.

Price Chopper was founded in 1932 by the Golub family and has 130 stores across the Northeast and 18,000 employees. In New York, the stores are located through central New York, the Albany area and the Hudson Valley.

They also have stores in Scranton area in Pennsylvania and into Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Top Markets has 162 grocery stores in New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont and about 14,000 workers.

More:Tops and Price Chopper to merge. What it means for customers

More:Why Tops and Price Chopper are merging, and how it could change the grocery market

Joseph Spector is the Government and Politics Editor for the USA TODAY Network's Atlantic Group, overseeing coverage in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany

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