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Harvey’s Supermarket is closing, leaving void at eastern gateway

A blow to the local economy was dealt Thursday with the announcement that the parent company of Harvey’s Supermarket, Southeastern Grocers, will close 94 underperforming stores including the Cairo location. Harvey’s, currently located at 1000 First Ave. N.E., has been a grocery shopping institution in Grady County for generations.
The move is part of Southeastern Grocers’ preparation to file for bankruptcy by the end of this month, according to published reports.
“Southeastern Grocers has conducted a thorough review of options for reducing our current debt. Taking this step was critical to our future and the long-term health of our business. After careful consideration, we have chosen to voluntarily implement a court-supervised, prepackaged restructuring agreement,” a company announcement states.
The store closings are expected to take place within the next three months. “It is our goal to work through our financial restructuring as quickly and efficiently as possible, and we will emerge from this process likely within the next 90 days,” the release indicates.
Anthony Hucker, President and Chief Executive Officer of SEG, said, “SEG is committed to ensuring that all associates continue to be treated with the utmost dignity, respect and compassion.”
Grady County Joint Development Authority Executive Director Julian Brown estimates between 25 and 30 jobs will likely be lost here due to the store’s closing.
Brown said he is already making contacts with people in the grocery business about possibly opening a store here.
Authority member Dr. Gene Maddox asked if a chain like Publix might consider locating here.
Brown said that Publix typically likes to build its own stores and would not likely be interested in moving into the Harvey’s location. The JDA executive director also said it was unlikely Publix would be interested in Cairo based on the community’s demographics.
“I’m not saying that it’s not possible, but we probably are too small for Publix,” Brown said.
Brown said that some other type business may be a better fit for that location. He said that having the Harvey’s location vacant as well as the former Fred’s discount store on the southeast side of town does not “look good.” “We don’t need a building that size being empty,” Brown added.
JDA attorney Thomas L. Lehman asked if there was anything the JDA could have done to preserve the store, but Brown said that was unlikely. Cairo City Manager Chris Addleton said the impact of Wal-Mart had made it difficult for Harvey’s to compete and he noted the two independent grocery stores here have their own niche markets.
Other Harvey’s stores closing in Georgia are located in Adel, Camilla, Cochran, Dawson, Dublin, Fort Valley, Leesburg, Macon, Montezuma, Moultrie, Ocilla, Sylvester, Thomasville and Waycross. The company is also closing Winn-Dixie stores located in Columbus and Valdosta and a Bi-Lo in Savannah.
The company will continue to operate 582 other locations.
In related news, Brown reported to the JDA Tuesday that he is working to identify the ideal spot for a new speculative building to use in economic development recruitment.

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