|This article needs to be updated. (October 2015)|
|Founded||1904Brooklyn, New Yorkin|
|Headquarters||2 Paragon Drive, Montvale, New Jersey, U.S.|
|Parent||The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company|
Founded in 1904, Waldbaum's was one of seven "banner store chains" owned and operated by The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P), which acquired the chain in 1986.
Waldbaum's operated full-service traditional supermarkets with varying footprints and store models and its popular marquee in certain aisles along with good food and reliable service. At its peak in the 1980s, it was the 12th largest supermarket chain in the United States and had 140 stores throughout the New York metropolitan area. All Waldbaum's stores featured fresh meats and produce. Sixty-two stores had bakeries and 36 offered pharmacy service. As with other A&P-branded stores, Waldbaum's offered in-house products under the America's Choice, America's Choice Kids, America's Choice Gold, Two-Forks Bakery, Green Way, Via Roma, Food Basics, Home Basics, Great Atlantic Seafood Market, Mid-Atlantic Country Farms, Woodson & James, Hartford Reserve, Food Emporium Trading Co., Preferred Pet and Live Better names and more.
In 1904 two Austrian brothers, Sam and Wolf Waldbaum, opened a store in Brooklyn. Their nephew, Israel "Izzy" Waldbaum, came to America and joined the business. The three men ran the store, with Izzy taking over the grocery when his uncles retired. Izzy married Julia Leffel; they had three children. When Izzy died in 1948, his son Ira took over the then existing six stores in Brooklyn.
The company made history in 1938 when identical twin African-American brothers, Ernst and George Brown, who started working at one of the only two existing stores at the time as stockboys were promoted to checkout boys. "It was unheard of then for a colored checker to be in a white neighborhood," Ernest Brown said three decades later in an interview. Both Browns later became store managers and, eventually, Waldbaum vice-presidents.
Following the death of his father, Ira Waldbaum left his studies at New York University to run the family business. By 1951, the company had opened its first supermarket in Flushing, Queens and net sales reached $55.2 million by 1960. In 1961, the company went public by selling shares of common stock.
In 1962, the company made its first acquisition, Michael's Fair-Mart Food Stores, Inc., a 13-unit chain, for mostly cash and stock. 1964 also saw the move of the company headquarters from Brooklyn to Garden City.
Julia Waldbaum, bearing the title of company secretary, made surprise inspections of about 30 stores a month as self-appointed watchdog of the supermarket chain. She was widely recognized because her picture appeared on almost all of the 400 food products sold under the Waldbaum's label. Julia also published Waldbaum's recipe books and appeared in print ads into her senior years. On September 30, 1996, Julia died in her sleep in her New York apartment, at the age of 99.
In 1969, Waldbaum's purchased Holyoke's Food Mart Inc., a privately held chain of 14 supermarkets in Connecticut and western Massachusetts with annual sales of $38 million. These stores' sales quadrupled from 1960 to 1968; in the only down year, 1965, it dropped trading stamps to reduce costs. Waldbaum's introduced a line of private-label foods and nonfood items in 1964; at least two stores had pharmacies. Waldbaum's moved its headquarters and distribution center in 1974, to Central Islip. Almost half of the 118 stores that year were in Brooklyn and Queens. During 1978-1979 the company bought 10 former Pantry Pride/Hills Stores from the bankrupt Food Fair chain, bringing the total number of outlets to 138, compared with 80 in 1970. Net sales reached $1.1 billion in 1979 (compared with $281 million in 1969), and net income was $7.8 million, compared with $2.7 million in 1969. In 1979, Waldbaum's was the second largest company in sales on Long Island and the third largest employer.
In 1983 Waldbaum's opened its first "Megamart", a 55,000-square-foot store in Greenfield, Mass. This was a significant departure because extra space was filled with general merchandise that the chain had generally avoided even though nonfood items yielded a higher profit margin. Another megamart was the remodeled, 52,000-square-foot outlet in Vails Gate, New York, which carried four to five times the amount of general merchandise it did previously, including cosmetics and boxed toys. Now the nation's 12th-largest supermarket chain, Waldbaum's earned a record $17.1 million on $1.76 billion in sales during 1985, its last year of independent operation. Waldbaum's profits, however, dropped in 1983 and 1984. In the latter year Waldbaum's, along with three other supermarket chains, pleaded no-contest to a charge of conspiracy to fix prices by eliminating double-value coupons. It eventually paid $700,000 in fines and distributed $7.5 million worth of redeemable coupons to settle litigation. Early in 1986 a presidential commission charged that Waldbaum's and other supermarket chains were involved with organized crime in paying for various operating services.
In 1986, Waldbaum's was acquired by The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company (A&P) for $50 a share, or $287.1 million. The Waldbaum family's stake in the company was more than 60 percent at this time. The family subsequently suffered embarrassment because Robert Chestman, a stockbroker who heard about the pending deal through a son-in-law of Ira Waldbaum, reaped profits of $250,000 in trades based on this information, part of which he shared with the son-in-law. Chestman was convicted on ten counts of insider trading.
A&P mismanaged Waldbaum's, investing little in these stores, resulting in the closing or sale of many Foodmart stores in the New England division. A&P then converted the remaining Waldbaum's Foodmart store into the Super Foodmart banner, and later, to A&P Super Foodmart (A&P's other New England division). The remaining forty-one Waldbaum's stores existed only in Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and on Long Island. Many Waldbaum's are former A&P stores.
On August 13, 2010, A&P announced that it would close twenty-five stores as the parent of Waldbaum's began the implementation and execution phase of its comprehensive turnaround; these stores closed in October 2010, including stores in Centereach and Levittown, Long Island.
In February 2011, A&P announced thirty-two additional store closings, including three Long Island Waldbaum's: Farmingdale, Smithtown, and Valley Stream on April 15, 2011. In January 2012, A&P announced half a dozen additional closings on Long Island. The grocery chain said that six stores would close in Commack, West Babylon, East Islip, Lake Ronkonkoma, Huntington Station and Rockville Centre. The closures happened in March 2012, as Waldbaum's parent company, A&P, Inc. emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
On July 20, 2015, A&P filed for a pre-packaged Chapter 11 bankruptcy, following years of financial loss and a struggle to compete with rival grocery chains. The company announced that 3 Waldbaum's stores in Carle Place, Riverhead, and Oceanside were set to close. Nineteen stores were sold to Stop & Shop and Key Food. Five store locations were purchased by Best Yet Market in November 2015,  and three locations to Wakefern Food Corporation, owner of the ShopRite Food chain.
At approximately 8:15am on August 2, 1978, a fire was reported at the store in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. Workers who were in the store during renovations reported a fire near the compressor room. After several more calls, including a nearby pulled street box, several fire companies had been dispatched to the scene. As a result of the renovations, the fire was able to quickly spread to the mezzanine and cockloft areas. Per department policies at the time, firefighters were ordered to the roof to begin venting the building. After a determination made by the battalion chief on scene that day, a second alarm was ordered and the fire was declared as out of control. At 9:02am, as firefighters were on the roof with fire showing in sections, a large portion suddenly collapsed, sending 12 firefighters into the fully involved building. In the end, six firefighters had died in the fire and over 30 injured.
Bankruptcy and closure
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