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  • Chapter 11 ripple effect Elipsis... Test AMP&SAND

    C&K Market's bankruptcy places Elipsis... Test negative consequences on local creditors
  • Elipsis... Test AMP&SAND
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  • Elipsis... Test AMP&SAND
    The economic ripples from C&K Market's Chapter 11 bankruptcy are barely discernible for major lenders and national vendors, who can easily withstand the inevitable losses.
    But for smaller creditors, those same ripples can threaten their own economic stability.
    Last month, the Brookings-based parent company of Ray's Food Place, Shop Smart and Lo Bucks filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Oregon in Eugene.
    Since then, "Store Closing" banners have gone up at C&K Market-owned grocery operations from Northern California coastal communities to Central Oregon. Not only is C&K Market shuttering or selling 16 stores, but it has sold off its pharmacies.
    According to court filings, C&K owed U.S. Bank approximately $37 million before selling its pharmacies. Once those deals are closed, C&K will owe U.S. Bank roughly $24 million. The court has also granted motions allowing the grocer to continue many of its day-to-day operations.
    But there are many other creditors whose debts won't be paid anytime soon, if at all. The grocery company's payments to landlords and former owners of its stores stopped coming, in some cases months before the filing.
    Steve Reed, who operates Shop'n Kart in Ashland, sold a similar operation in White City to C&K Market in 2004. He readily expects the majority of what C&K owes to be swept away in court-approved restructuring.
    "I haven't been getting payments from C&K since June," Reed said. "I never really sold the White City store in hopes of retiring, but I certainly would like the money they owe me."
    As an unsecured creditor, Reed is in a lengthy queue with hundreds of others, behind commercial lenders who possess the most favorable position to collect on debts.
    "I have the store in Ashland, work it actively and life goes on," Reed said. "By the same token, I will still pursue getting my money. The best I can hope for is 20 cents on the dollar — if I can even get that."
    Glen Robins and Jim Porter are business partners who opened a Shop'n Kart store in Grants Pass during the early 1980s. They built a 30,000-square-foot store they eventually sold to Dick Wright, who turned it into a Market of Choice.
    C&K Market acquired three Market of Choice stores from Wright in 2005, including the one leased from Robins and Porter.
    "They paid us right up until Nov. 1, Robins said. "After they filed for bankruptcy they couldn't do anything for two or three weeks. Then they started paying us by the day, and will until the store closes."
    That's when things get dicey for Robins and Porter, whose lease with C&K continues through 2015. The annual rent was about $210,000. Unless another grocer steps forward, the partners may have to go a completely different direction, and that may not be so easy in an economically depressed community.
    "I'm basically unemployed now," said Robins. "But there's no way to draw unemployment. We'll lose in the income, but we have other expenses, including insurance on the building. We just paid the property taxes, so we're OK there."
    Once the inventory is gone, Robins said, another company could be operational within a month or two.
    Porter acknowledged the ramifications reached beyond his partnership, putting dozens of employees in the two Grants Pass stores out of work.
    "I'm sorry that it happened," Porter said. "Any time when there are layoffs in small towns it affects families, relatives and the people around them."
    In a court filing, C&K said its biweekly payroll for 2,300 employees averages more than $2.7 million.
    Porter said vendors are generally strong enough to withstand small-scale economic shops.
    "Most of them are rather large and they protect themselves from things like this by being large," Porter said. "Umpqua Dairy is one of the smallest ones. It's going to hurt them. It won't damage them much, but they will feel it."
    C&K Market pointed to competition from major players, such as Walmart, Fred Meyer and Safeway, as the cause of its struggles.
    Reed agreed only partially with that assessment when evaluating the fate of a store midway between Walmart supercenters in north Medford and Eagle Point.
    "When I owned the White City Shop'n Kart, we had a very good balance sheet and financial statement because we had a pretty good volume," Reed said. "As soon as they took over, they raised prices and lost market share. Under their type of operation, they are used to being the only store in town. But I can't imagine there isn't a little niche there. You can make a decent, but not great, living there."
    Reed said Shop'n Kart saw 10,000 customers per week, many of whom shopped at Food 4 Less or Winco once a month and the rest of the time at his store.
    "This is going to hurt the people of White City who depend on getting their every-day stuff there."
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com.
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