TBD…or To Be Decided

Brian Golden

I’ve been covering the Tops/P&C story ever since I began writing for The Evening Sun in early December, and I’ve received dozens of e-mails, phone calls, and been stopped countless times while out and about, concerning my thoughts and the potential closing of the downtown grocery.

About a week ago, I was seriously tiring of checking the two mostly-reliable web-sites that have semi-consistantly reported updates of the situation. After several hundred fruitless searches in a single afternoon I can honestly say I was burnt out. I went home that night convinced that there must be some way to put the proper pieces together and at least try to come up with a conclusion. So I began my investigation.

Throughout this entire ordeal, Tops’ officials have stressed that only a handful of stores will close, and that they have nothing but the best interests of their newly acquired employees in mind, which is great, but I’m sure said employees would really like to know what’s going on, I know I would. What I find extremely interesting is the fact that Tops has already announced the closure of four stores (a P&C in Hornell, two Bi-Lo stores in Pennsylvania and a P&C in Vermont) as it nears the end of its 30 day store evaluation. In my book, that would constitute about a “handful” of stores, which poses the question, how many hands are we really filling here?

Tops has already expressed that the North Country stores in Ogdensburg, Watertown, Gouverneur, Canton, West Carthage, Massena and Potsdam are outside of its geographic footprint, so I guess we can potentially add those locations to our handful. Add to that the Frewsburg and Lakewood stores, which Tops also has no interest in, and we’re over two handfuls.

But what I found truly interesting came from the Department of Labor. All ten of the afore mentioned stores have one thing in common, in Penn Traffic’s Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act notice (a requirement by law), in the column labeled “WARN extension will state”, these stores do not have a date of February 20 or 27, they simply have “TBD”, or to be decided. Interesting, I thought, could it be a coincidence?

Further perusal of the document turned up seven other TBD’s in New York State, including Bath (which already has a Tops), two stores in Ithaca (which already has a Tops), Hornell (already announced closing), Homer, Dunkirk (already has a Tops) and of course, Norwich (didn’t we used to have a Tops?).

All in all, these 16 stores employ approximately 823 union, and 34 non-union, hard-working New Yorkers. Can anybody say busy day at unemployment offices throughout the state?

Now I admit I could be way off with this theory, yet while there is no hard evidence that all 16 of these stores will close, I find it extremely difficult to believe that we’ve seen the end of all this. It just seems a little too perfect to me that the majority of the stores I’ve listed are all outside the “geographic footprint”, and are all listed as TBD.

I wonder if the Vermont and Pennsylvania Department of Labor web-sites have any relevant information?

Time for some more investigation.