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Vitamin World seeks to close 124 stores, sell off the rest

Chain had planned to close 51 stores and reorganize, but is now seeking to wind down all operations, bankruptcy court filings say.

Vitamin World is seeking to close 124 of

Vitamin World is seeking to close 124 of its stores and sell the rest. Photo Credit: Chuck Fadely

Bankrupt Vitamin World Inc. has increased to 124 the number of stores it wants to close and hopes to sell the remainder to another company, according to proposals filed in federal court in Delaware.

The Holbrook-based retail chain said its plan to continue operating as an independent company has changed since seeking Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection from creditors in September.

While Vitamin World “originally intended to proceed with a plan of reorganization . . . unforeseen operational challenges and liquidity concerns have caused the debtors to now pursue a sale of substantially all of their assets,” the retailer’s attorneys wrote in court documents filed Tuesday.

They sought a bankruptcy judge’s permission to begin going-out-of-business sales at 124 stores this month followed by their permanent closure by late January. The only affected store locally is at Green Acres Mall in Valley Stream, according to the filing.

Vitamin World had initially proposed closing 51 of its 334 locations in more than 30 states. The stores targeted for closure have been described as “underperforming or unprofitable” by company executives.

The going-out-of-business sales would raise needed cash while the retailer seeks a buyer for its profitable stores. They will be sold in an expedited auction.

The company has at least eight Long Island stores, according to its website.

The new plan maximizes value for creditors, while “preserving as many jobs for their employees as possible,” lawyers for Vitamin World wrote.

In its September bankruptcy filing Vitamin World said it employed 1,478 people at its headquarters, stores and warehouses.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin J. Carey will conduct a hearing Nov. 21 on the proposals.

A spokeswoman for Centre Lane Partners, the Manhattan investment firm that owns Vitamin World, didn’t return a telephone call on Wednesday seeking comment.

Centre Lane purchased the chain in February 2016 for about $25 million from Ronkonkoma-based vitamin and dietary supplements manufacturer Nature’s Bounty Co., which still produces products sold under the Vitamin World name. Nature’s Bounty is the largest creditor in the bankruptcy case.

The chain listed liabilities — debt and other obligations — of more than $43.6 million against estimated assets of between $50 million and $100 million.

Vitamin World, which sells its products through stores and online, previously closed 45 locations and renegotiated some store leases to save more than $2 million. It also sold its Holbrook office, where about 100 people work, for $16.6 million and now pays rent there.

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