The Ukrop’s chain of grocery stores was officially purchased Feb. 8 by Giant-Carlisle, a U.S. division of the international Amsterdam-based company Royal Ahold. The 25 stores were purchased for approximately $140 million. The sale, first announced in December, included the transition of current Ukrop’s employees to the new company.
The popular chain of family-owned Ukrop’s supermarkets began as a single store established in 1937 by Joseph Ukrop and have been operated by his sons Robert and Jim ’61 since 1974. Ukrop’s Super Markets Inc. also owns First Market Bank, of which Jim is the CEO.
Jim and his wife Barbara ’61 are both alumni of the College of William and Mary, and have remained active supporters for many years. Their son Robert graduated from the College in 1985.
Jim served on the Board of Visitors from 1985 until 1993. He also served as president of the College of William and Mary Foundation, the Tribe Club and the Alumni Association. Barbara served on the BOV between 2001 and 2009, as well as the Major Gifts Committee and the Student Advancement Association. Both have been awarded the Alumni Medallion, the Alumni Association’s highest honor.
Jim and Barbara have financially supported many of the College’s programs, including both men’s and women’s athletics, as well as institutions like Earl Gregg Swem library, the Mason School of Business, the School of Education and the Alumni Association. They donated funds in 2000 that will be used to build a new soccer and lacrosse stadium. Campus Drive was even renamed Ukrop Way in 2006 to honor their contributions.
According to Robert Ukrop, the decision to sell the company was partially fueled by concerns that the chain’s small size would prevent it from being able to compete with larger industry leaders. Ukrop’s was recently replaced by Food Lion as the top competitor in local market shares, a position it had held since 1986. Jim Ukrop stated in a recent press conference that changes like selling alcohol and remaining open on Sundays would not have been enough to solve the company’s long-term problems.
Ukrop’s stores will be gradually renamed “Martin’s” throughout the spring. The stores will be open on Sundays and begin to sell beer and wine upon adoption of the new name.
“Before we made the announcement, we gathered a lot of feedback from the community in a variety of ways … about what they liked about Ukrop’s and what they would like to see changed,” Director of Public and Community Relations for Giant Tracy Pawelski said. “We believe that Monday’s announcement is very much a reflection of the feedback we received.”
According to the Grant-Carlisle CEO, traditions such as employees carrying groceries to a customer’s car will “absolutely” remain in effect.
“As far as other policy changes, as we make decisions, we will announce those and try to communicate proactively with customers and associates,” Pawelski said.
First Market Bank will not be affected by the transition and will continue to operate in the 23 stores where they are already present, including the Williamsburg location.
Ukrop’s bakery will also remain unchanged, and will function as a separate company run by Robert Ukrop.
Royal Ahold owns about 6,500 stores worldwide, which include US supermarkets Stop-and-Shop and Bi-Lo.
The company has just recently begun to refocus on expansion after its American division, U.S. Foodservice, experienced a massive fraud scandal in 2003.
Giant-Carlisle alone owns over 150 stores in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia, including those in the Giant and Martin’s chains.
Barbara Ukrop declined to comment for this story.