Only about a year after its much-anticipated expansion to Baltimore, the Seasons kosher market chain, headquartered in Flushing, New York, and owned by dry goods merchant Mayer Gold, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sunday.
On Monday, the Seasons market at 1630 Reisterstown Road was open for business.
“We’re open and we’ll continue opening every day. We’ll be here,” said Zachary Richards, Seasons Baltimore district director of operations. “We’re going to restructure and move forward.”
Under a New York Southern District Court filing, BankUnited, N.A. v. Seasons Corporate LLC et al., electronic summons were issued to Mayer Gold and co-owner Zvi Bloom on Sept. 10, as well as to Seasons Corporate, Seasons Property Management, Blue Gold Equities, Blue Wolf Investments and seven market entities, including Seasons Maryland. The nature of the suit is listed as a breach of contract.
According to the New York-based Commercial Observer, the grocery store chain is $42 million in debt but only holds $5 million in assets.
The company said it had a commitment for a cash infusion that would allow stores to stay open as the company reorganizes in a Sept. 21 prepared statement.
“In order to preserve and strengthen our ability to serve the local Seasons Family’s needs, we are focusing on emerging from the Chapter 11 filing with a stronger balance sheet and to fully restore operations,” the statement said.
“Through a commitment of up to $6 million in private funding we will be able to fully stock the shelves, fulfill current vendor obligations and continue to operate normally during the restructuring period,” said Seasons CEO Mayer Gold in the statement. “There is nothing we love more than providing Seasons’ family with the warmest kosher shopping experience, and we look forward to refocusing on that singular goal.”
The statement said that Seasons has several parties interested in investing in the company and anticipates “a relatively short reorganization process and bright future as we continue to serve our neighborhoods.”
The chain’s expansion created much buzz in the Baltimore kosher scene when the store announced it was coming in 2015 and opened the Pikesville location in August last year. Many kosher Baltimoeans welcomed the new addition since — although Baltimore has a large kashrut community — the selection of dedicated kosher markets with dedicated kosher butchers is limited.
In recent weeks, a visit to the Pikesville market found the meat cases empty and worried customers later
reported that the prepared food section was also sparse. Seasons later posted photos to its Facebook page of stocked meat cases.
An inquiry to a store manager was met with the explanation that nothing was wrong with the meat department,
but that some logistics were being worked out.
Meanwhile, on Aug. 9, Long Island Herald Community Newspapers reported that shelves at the Seasons store on Central Avenue in Lawrence, New York, “were reported to be empty and rumors were running rampant on the financial health of the eight-store kosher supermarket chain.”
Gold issued this statement to the Herald: “Seasons Kosher, and its predecessor Supersol, is proud to be a mainstay of the Far Rockaway/Five Towns community for almost four decades. Seasons has revolutionized the kosher shopping experience, and we look forward to serving the neighborhood and the kosher consumer for many years to come.”
Chapter 11 bankruptcy filings were made in New York Bankruptcy Court under Gold’s company Blue Gold Equities and included Seasons Maryland and 10 other markets in New York, New Jersey and Cleveland, Ohio, not all under the Seasons moniker.
A headline in the Cleveland Jewish News on Aug. 30 read, “The waiting goes on … and on for Seasons.”
“Seasons kosher supermarket is still coming to South Euclid,” CJN reported. “At least, if the company isn’t planning to come, it hasn’t informed South Euclid officials or First Interstate Properties, which is developing Oakwood Commons.”
Jeremy Diamond, Pikesville resident and author of “Tastemakers: The Legacy of Jewish Entrepreneurs in the Mid-Atlantic Grocery Industry,” believes that “rapid expansion, competition and high grocery pricing contributed to their lost sales and increased debt.”
As defined by the United States Courts website, Chapter 11 bankruptcy “generally provides for reorganization, usually involving a corporation or partnership. A Chapter 11 debtor usually proposes a plan of reorganization to keep its business alive and pay creditors over time. People in business or individuals can also seek relief in Chapter 11.”