6 Clemens markets get new owner SuperFresh will take over the Montco and Bucks stores, now closed for renovation. Staffing remains an issue.

Posted: November 04, 2006

Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. has confirmed that its SuperFresh division is taking over six Clemens Markets in Montgomery and Bucks Counties for an undisclosed price.

The stores in Center Square, New Hope, Lansdale, Souderton and Trappe closed last weekend, and are scheduled to reopen around Nov. 17 as SuperFresh outlets.

Also last weekend, Giant Food Stores L.L.C. completed the conversion of 13 other Clemens Markets, which it bought in October, to its banner, keeping Clemens store employees on staff. Giant did not buy the remaining six stores to assure approval of the deal by the Federal Trade Commission, which reviews purchases for market share.

By contrast, SuperFresh is staffing its new stores with a combination of former Clemens employees and workers from other SuperFresh stores under rules imposed by SuperFresh's contract with United Food & Commercial Workers Union Local 1776, the company said Thursday.

Union president Wendell Young IV said yesterday that 350 to 400 people would be affected by the shuffling, including 250 SuperFresh employees who would move to former Clemens locations, which had employed 700.

"It's a complex dance we're involved in now," Young said. "It's a chance for this company to really turn around, to grow instead of contract."

The process has caused turmoil among both former Clemens employees and SuperFresh workers.

Some Clemens employees were offered jobs with SuperFresh at lower hourly wages, and were asked to transfer to different locations, employees said. About 30 ex-Clemens employees planned to meet for dinner last night at P.J. Whelihan's pub in Center Square across from the former Clemens Market, said Anne Imboden, who had worked at the store for 16 years. Imboden, of Lansdale, said about 60 of 150 employees at her store were offered jobs with SuperFresh. "More people turned them down than took the offer," she said.

Also, some SuperFresh employees said they were being forced to transfer. Young said the union has worked with employees for whom a transfer would impose a hardship.

SuperFresh originated in the early 1980s when the union worked out a deal with Great Atlantic to reopen shuttered A&P locations. It operates 75 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and Delaware.

Contact staff writer Harold Brubaker at 215-854-4651 or hbrubaker@phillynews.com.

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