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H Mart wins court approval to buy Jericho Waldbaum's

A federal bankruptcy judge has approved a bid

A federal bankruptcy judge has approved a bid from H Mart to buy a Waldbaum's in Jericho. Employee John Candia, 28, of East Meadow, is stands outside the store. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A federal bankruptcy judge Monday finally approved a bid from H Mart to buy a Waldbaum's store in Jericho owned by the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. for $3.45 million.

H Mart agreed to make "good faith, best efforts" to hire former A&P workers, but without specifying how many it would hire.

Separately, the judge, in White Plains, also signed an order Monday approving a $600,000 bid for the A&P-owned Pathmark in Brentwood from Brooklyn-based Bogopa Service Corp., owner of the Food Bazaar supermarket chain.

A decision on the bid for the Waldbaum's in Jericho had been delayed at least four times. H Mart, a New Jersey-based Asian-American supermarket chain, had been unwilling to agree to rehire at least 25 percent of the store's workforce from among displaced A&P union workers. A&P, owner of Pathmark and Waldbaum's, is in bankruptcy and going out of business.

"There is absolutely no reason why this company can't hire a mere 25 percent," attorney Martin Milner, who represented the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union Local 342 based in Mineola, said during the court hearing.

H Mart argued its hiring needs are different because its employees need to be able to read Korean product labels and be familiar with Asian foods, such as meats and seafood.

"This is really a different business than a traditional grocery store," an attorney for A&P said during the hearing.

As a compromise, H Mart agreed during the hearing to offer employment to qualified store employees without being bound by a percentage requirement. The Jericho store would close six to nine months for renovation.

Employees who are laid off will already get 54 percent of the severance amount stipulated in union contracts with A&P. But H Mart also agreed to pick up the remaining 46 percent of the severance payments for employees at the closing Waldbaum's, which will total about $210,000, in an attempt to resolve union objections. Each employee, on average, would receive an additional $3,469 in severance payments.

"H Mart is putting a significant amount of money on the table," Judge Robert Drain said at the hearing. He later added he shops at H Mart.

So far, A&P has received bankruptcy court approval to sell 33 of its Long Island stores. Other supermarket chains have bought most of the stores. Thirteen stores remain unsold, and five closed in October.

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