Family-run Remke Markets chain is sold

Family-run Remke Markets chain is sold

Alexander Coolidge, Feb. 24, 2017
The Enquirer

Struggling Remke Markets has been sold to a Findlay-based company, the grocer informed shoppers on Friday.

Remke’s 10 supermarkets in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky will remain open, but come under the management of Fresh Encounter Inc., which operates four other grocery chains. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

The family-led company, founded in 1897, was the last locally based supermarket chain other than Kroger.

“The decision to sell Remke Markets was a difficult one, however, we are excited that these new resources will allow us to greatly enhance our customer experience,” wrote Remke’s president Matthew Remke in a Friday letter to customers. “This change will allow us to continue to deliver on our promise of a local, neighborhood grocery with exceptional service in convenient locations, as well as to preserve valuable employment for our dedicated associates.”

Remke added the move allows his father, Bill Remke, to retire after spending 60 years at the company. Remke concluded by thanking customers for 120 years of loyalty. Bill Remke was the third generation to run the grocery chain.

The Erlanger-based chain has closed three stores since 2015. The shuttered Columbia Township, Newport and Westwood stores were originally part of the ailing bigg’s chain that Remke Markets acquired in 2010 from Supervalu.

Generative Growth LLC is a corporation whose members include third generation grocers, Michael S. Needler Jr. and Julie Needler Anderson. Fresh Encounter’s family of markets include Sack ‘n Save, Community Markets, Great Scot and Chief Markets.

Spokesmen for Remke and Generative Growth were not available for comment.

In recent years, Remke had emphasized its deep roots in the community based on national market research that showed such roots carried weight with consumers.

In 2013, in a major rebranding, the chain once against became Remke Markets, dropping the name Remke bigg’s it had taken after the 2010 deal, which brought Remke across the Ohio River a year after it had closed a store in Deer Park. Financial terms of the 2010 deal with Supervalu, which was Remke’s wholesale supplier, also were not released.

Bigg’s had introduced a then-foreign concept to the U.S.: a supermarket that also offered general merchandise. The first bigg’s “hypermarket” in Union Township opened in 1984, predating Wal-Mart’s first supercenter that opened in 1988 in Washington, Missouri.

Bigg’s struggled in the region after 2000 as competition intensified from not only Kroger, but other nontraditional rivals. Mass-discount stores such as Wal-Mart, Target and Meijer – even drug stores like Walgreen’s and dollar stores like Dollar General – had discovered that selling food drove traffic.

Remke did not take all of the bigg’s stores; it dropped the non-grocery merchandise because it had no wholesale supplier for those goods.

For roughly 25 years, Remke has operated with an employee stock ownership plan.

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