Bruno's

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Bruno's Supermarkets, LLC
Industry Retail grocer
Founded 1932
Defunct 2012
Headquarters Birmingham, Alabama
Products Dairy, deli, frozen foods, grocery, meat, produce, snacks, health and beauty
Parent Belle Foods
Website brunos.com

Bruno's Supermarkets, LLC was an American chain of grocery stores with its headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama.[1]

It founded in 1932 by Joe Bruno in Birmingham. During the company's pinnacle, it operated over 300 stores under the names Bruno’s, Food World, Foodmax, Food Fair, Fresh Value, Vincent's Markets, Piggly Wiggly, Consumer Foods, and American Fare in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Carolina. The chain was acquired by Birmingham-based Belle Foods which discontinued the brand in 2012.

History[edit]

The company began as a market opened by Joseph Bruno in Birmingham, Alabama during the Great Depression. According to the 1983 book Joe: The Fiftieth Anniversary of Bruno’s Food Stores by Pat Dunbar, “the store would have fit into a modern day meat cooler.” The company grew steadily, with ten stores in place during the 1950s, and 29 stores open under the Bruno's name when it became a publicly traded company in 1971. In 1972, Bruno’s opened its discount grocery chain, Food World, which was followed by warehouse-oriented Consumer Foods. As Food World and Consumer Foods became more profitable, the old Bruno’s stores began to be phased out. Consumer Foods was replaced by Food Fair in 1983, and in 1984 Bruno's opened its first Foodmax stores.

On December 11 of 1991, the nearly $3 billion company suffered a catastrophic blow when one of its two corporate jets crashed into Lavender Mountain in Rome, Georgia killing all 9 passengers. The Chairman along with a founder of the company, and several executive officers were aboard at the time of the crash. The crash caused a large outpouring of grief among the Birmingham metropolitan community due to the family and the company's well-known philanthropic contributions. The Bruno's Classic, a PGA Seniors Tour tournament which was announced just prior to the crash, was renamed the Bruno's Memorial Classic.

The 1990s also saw the reintroduction of the Bruno’s banner on stores, this time as Bruno’s Supercenters and Bruno’s Food and Pharmacy, both of which were upper-class stores. In 1996, Bruno's began converting its Foodmax stores to the Bruno's banner in the Nashville, Tennessee market, including the construction of several new stores to replace smaller, aging ones. Before the process was complete (some stores carried Foodmax signage on the outside and Bruno's signage inside), the company sold these stores to Albertsons, which finished construction, but spent less than 4 years in the market before shuttering all of its Nashville-area locations (most of which later became Publix).

Another concept, the upscale Vincent's Market, was tried in a one-location experiment in Homewood, Alabama. The experimental store featured a wide variety of prepared foods such as seafood, bakery goods and take-out meals as well as regular grocery sales. Around 2000, Vincent's Market was converted to the Bruno's nameplate (though it was largely unchanged otherwise), and the Vincent's Market name was applied to the deli/bakery departments in all existing Bruno's stores.

In 1995, the company was acquired by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), a leveraged buyout firm. That acquisition was ill-fated, as the company's debt structure combined with management missteps and increased competition from Wal-Mart Supercenters to drive it into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The company emerged from bankruptcy in 2000 after closing a number of unprofitable stores, but acquiring three new stores from the Gregerson's chain in and around Gadsden, Alabama. The company was sold in December 2001 to Ahold, a Dutch corporation, who then combined it with BI-LO. The new management struggled as well, and in 2005, Ahold finally sold the combined operation to Lone Star Funds, a private investment company which also owns Captain D's and Shoney's restaurants.[2] Lone Star then sold some stores to C&S Wholesale Grocers, which operated the new stores under its Southern Family Markets affiliate for a time but closed most of the acquired stores in 2007. C&S Wholesale also is the primary supplier for Bruno's which derives from the agreement between Lone Star and C&S. C&S would own and operate the logistics and warehouse while Lone Star would own and operate the stores.

On March 20, 2007, Lone Star Funds announced it had spun out Bruno's from BI-LO creating a separate corporate entity.[3] Seven unprofitable stores were closed as a result of this transaction.

In October 2008, Bruno's announced plans to close 22 of their 40 in-store pharmacies "because of their consistently low performance over the last several years and the lack of prospect for turning them around." This left Bruno's with 18 in-store pharmacies within the 66 stores they ran at the time. All inventories and records were sold to CVS/pharmacy, and all employees were either offered severance packages or employment with CVS.[4]

In December 2008 the corporate offices were moved to International Park office park located in Hoover, Alabama. This move left the former Bruno's headquarters located on Lakeshore Parkway in Birmingham totally in the hands of C&S Wholesale Grocers who acquired the building in 2005 as part of purchasing the former logistics operations and warehouse previously owned by Bruno's.

At the beginning of 2009, Bruno's Supermarkets operated 23 Bruno's stores, 41 Food World stores. 2 Foodmax stores remained in Northport and Oxford. The Foodmax stores were operated the same way as Food World stores with their name being the only discernible difference. The two Foodmax stores were tied to labor agreements with the UFCW union, which prevented any name change to the stores. The employees in these stores wore "Food World" uniforms, and the signage in the stores used the Food World banner. Both of these stores were closed following the company's sale to Southern Family Markets.

Bankruptcy[edit]

On February 5, 2009, Bruno's announced plans to enter into Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganisation proceedings. The company planned to continue business as usual for the duration of the bankruptcy. The company retained the advisory firm Alvarez & Marsal to assist in the bankruptcy process. President and CEO Kent Moore resigned and the Company appointed Jim Grady, Senior Director with Alvarez & Marsal, as Chief Restructuring Officer.[5]

On February 18, 2009, Bruno's Supermarkets LLC applied to the bankruptcy court for permission to close 10 stores. These included 4 in the Birmingham area and 5 in the Montgomery-Auburn area. They also informed the court that 30 corporate office positions were being eliminated. This amounts to 15% of the store count and about 30% of the corporate office positions. They also asked the court for permission to hire a closeout firm to oversee the sell down and closing of the 10 closing stores. These 10 locations were closed by March 31.

On March 9, 2009, Bruno's filed a motion in bankruptcy court requesting approval to renegotiate its agreement with UFCW Local 1657. Bruno's announced its intent to sell some or all of its stores, and is seeking to remove the successor-ship clause from its contracts. The successor-ship clause requires any acquirer of the company or any of its stores to agree, as a term of the sale, to honor the collective bargaining agreements which are currently in place. The removal of this clause was hoped to make the company more marketable to potential buyers who said they would not buy the company or any stores if they were required to honor the collective bargaining agreements.[6] The court ruled on April 27 that the successor-ship clause and the rest of the collective bargaining agreements would remain intact.

A court-ordered auction of Bruno's assets was held on April 29, 2009. The auction continued into the day on April 30. A hearing on the sale was held on May 4. Court documents show that Southern Family Markets, a subsidiary of C&S Wholesale Grocers, was the only bidder for a significant number of stores. Southern Family Markets took possession of 57 locations (56 active stores plus one recently closed location). They elected to operate 31 of those, and turn over the remaining 25 open locations to Hilco Liquidators for "going out of business" sales. All of the 25 closing stores were closed by May 31, 2009.[7]

In June 2009, Bruno's ceased to exist as stand alone company, with 31 of its locations being absorbed into the Southern Family Markets chain. As a requirement of the sale agreement, Bruno's petitioned bankruptcy court to change its name to BFW Liquidations, LLC. Southern Family Markets purchased the rights to the banners of Bruno's, Food World, Food Fair, Food Max, and Vincent's Markets, and did not allow Bruno's Supermarkets, LLC to operate under any name which contains any of those banners.[8]

Southern Family Markets continued the use of the Bruno's and Food World brands, and did not convert any of the stores to the Southern Family Markets banner.[9]

Bruno's as a defunct brand[edit]

In late 2011, newly formed Birmingham-based Belle Foods purchased Southern Family Markets and its 57 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

The company announced they would rebrand all locations to the Belle Foods name, eliminating the Bruno's brand entirely. The first location to receive the new look was one of Bruno's former flagship stores in Hoover. It was the only remaining Bruno's store in the Birmingham area.

Belle does not own any of the Piggly Wiggly stores in Birmingham. All of the company's Piggly Wiggly stores in Georgia will change to the Belle Foods name.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Home. Bruno's Supermarkets. Retrieved on October 5, 2012. "800 Lakeshore Parkway, Birmingham, AL 35211"
  2. ^ Staff writers (December 23, 2004). "Lone Star Funds agrees to buy Bruno's from Ahold". Birmingham Business Journal. Retrieved March 5, 2009. 
  3. ^ Staff writers (March 20, 2007). "Lone Star spins out Bruno's; HQ back to Birmingham". Birmingham Business Journal. Retrieved March 5, 2009. 
  4. ^ The Associated Press (October 11, 2008). "Bruno’s Supermarkets Will Close Some Pharmacies". NBC13. Retrieved March 5, 2009. 
  5. ^ Staff writers (February 5, 2009). "Bruno's Files Voluntary Chapter 11 Petitions to Restructure Business Operations". PR Newswire (United Business Media). Retrieved March 5, 2009. 
  6. ^ http://www.al.com/birminghamnews/stories/index.ssf?/base/business/1238141714185070.xml&coll=2
  7. ^ Bruno's sells 56 stores in $46M deal, bizjournals.com, April 30, 2009
  8. ^ http://www.kccllc.net/documents/0900634/0900634090508000000000006.pdf
  9. ^ http://www.al.com/business/press-register/index.ssf?/base/business/124125575721890.xml&coll=3
  10. ^ Kent, Dawn (8 August 2012). "Belle Foods begins renaming grocery stores as Bruno name disappears from Birmingham market". The Birmingham News. Retrieved 12 August 2012. 

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