After 70 years, Birmingham, Alabama-based Western Supermarkets is discontinuing operations. Publix Super Markets Inc., headquartered in Lakeland, Florida, has agreed to buy two of Western’s four stores, the Lane Park store in Mountain Brook and the Rocky Ridge store in Vestavia Hills.
The Highland Avenue Western Market is destined for redevelopment and will close its doors in the weeks to come. The Village Market in the East Lake area of Birmingham, which Western also owns, is for sale.
“When I became involved in ownership in 1987, our goal was to maintain Western as Birmingham’s leading independent grocer,” owner Ken Hubbard said Jan. 4. “With the help of the loyal and talented people on the Western team, we’ve achieved that goal. We’ve taken Western as far as we can. It’s time to exit the business that has been my life’s work.”
According to a Jan. 4 press release from Publix, the location in Mountain Brook will open as a GreenWise Market. The Vestavia Hills location will open as a Publix. The acquisition is expected to close in March.
“Publix is always seeking locations where we can serve our customers and offer an exceptional shopping experience,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “This acquisition allows us to expand our presence in the Birmingham area, and we are very excited to bring one of our GreenWise Markets to this region.”
The Mountain Brook location at 1000 Jemison Lane is the seventh announced GreenWise Market and is expected to open by the third quarter of 2019.
The Vestavia Hills store at 3350 Morgan Drive will be torn down and rebuilt as an approximately 35,000-square-foot Publix. The opening date is not yet determined.
Publix is privately owned and operated by its more than 200,000 employees, with 2017 sales of $34.6 billion. Currently, Publix has 1,211 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.
The more than 200 Western Market employees have been informed of the closures and encouraged to seek employment with Publix.
“Many of our employees have worked at Western their entire careers. Treating them fairly, giving them plenty of notice and helping them find employment is now our mission,” Hubbard said. “I am committed to that.”
Many in Birmingham have worked at Western.
“It is astounding how many people–doctors, lawyers, business leaders and the current mayor of Birmingham had their first job at Western,” said Hubbard, who began with the company as a bagger in 1960. “Our people made Western a special place for our customers. They will continue to provide that same level of service, wherever they work.”
The Food Partners LLC advised Western Markets on the transaction.