As speculation swirled about the fate of the Richmond-based chain of 28 grocery stores, Robert S. Ukrop sent a letter to employees yesterday dismissing the talk as rumor.The door appears to be cracked a bit for possible change.
"There has been a lot of speculation in the last few days about the future of Ukrop's," the chairman, president and CEO of the company said. "All of this is based on rumors, anonymous blog postings and industry chatter."
Ukrop, however, did not dispute published reports that the chain had issued a prospectus. "Anything I say at this point will add fuel to the fire," he wrote.
Losing Ukrop's for Richmonders would be similar to losing Miller & Rhoads and Thalhimers. Many of us who grew up in Richmond are attached to the store, the family, and the high quality of their food products and service.
When I moved to North Carolina years ago, I immediately began looking for something similar to Ukrop's ... and found Harris-Teeter. Throughout the years I've always heard there was a friendship between the two grocery chains and rumor has it there was an agreement never to build competing stores in each other's areas.
If ... and that is a huge if ... Ukrop's were to sell, I'd rather see it go to Harris-Teeter than other chains that have been mentioned.
However, I hope the family will be able to hold onto their rightful place as Richmond's premiere supermarkets. The green shirts embroidered with "Ukrop's" ... the chicken salad ... the clean salad bar ... their fabulous paninis ... fried chicken and chocolate fudge pies and coffee cakes ... and their excellent produce as well as high quality meats ... and clean cafe areas to meet with friends and grab a bite to eat ... Ukrop's is a place I trust and shop at everytime I'm in Richmond and, as I wrote in June, it's still #1 with us.
Here's hoping these nasty economic times we're living through won't take them down. Our prayers are with the family as they navigate these tough times.