Richmonders are already acting like Ukrop’s has sold. In part that’s likely because the rumors sound so plausible. Indeed, dozens of business owners and other leaders have said they were not surprised. Never mind that most people have no direct knowledge of an imminent deal. And it’s also in-part because the company has not issued an unequivocal statement that the company is not for sale.
However, in a note released yesterday to employees, Bobby Ukrop wrote that, “There has been a lot of speculation in the last few days about the future of Ukrop’s. All of this is based on rumors, anonymous blog postings, and industry chatter. Anything I say at this point would just add fuel to the fire. For example, I could say that, yes, other companies are interested in buying Ukrop’s. But the truth is that there have always been companies interested in buying us, so there’s nothing new here.” You can read the full note here.
Here are how three local business leaders reacted:
Michael W. Young, owner of The Service Companies of Virginia:
They have been part of our business for 15 years. (The Service Companies helps with maintenance on the stores and other buildings). I guess, like most of us, I am just wondering if it’s true. When I was a small kid, we used to go to the main store on Hull Street and Joe Ukrop would pass out candy to kids as we came in.
My first reaction was, that here’s another case of where the big gorillas take over a small business. It happened with Thalhimer and Miller and Rhoads. And now Ukrop’s. Who would have ever thought?
Michael Sesnowitz: Former dean at the VCU School of Business:
It’s not something that is terribly surprising because it’s very difficult for small independent chains to compete and be successful. Ukrop’s is a great institution. It’s probably the most socially responsibly company you’ll ever come across — just incredibly philanthropic, treats employees well, terrific supporters of community. A lot of that will change if ownership changes hands.
I think it’s a loss for community but completely understandable.
Jeffrey Harrison, professor of management at University of Richmond’s Robins School of Business:
There are a lot companies out there who would like to buy Ukrop’s, it is such a strong brand and enjoys an incredible reputation.
I know the Ukrops family, they have a great deal of pride in their name and what they have made. Based on everything I’ve heard, it still seems unlikely
But if they did sell, I think the impact on the region would be minimal. When people hear about mergers and acquisitions, they tend to think the worst, massive layoffs and the like. But it’s not always like that. If they sold to someone like a Harris Teeter, they might get rid of some redundancies but if you came in and just laid everyone off you destroy a lot of good will in the community.
And that goes for the community events such as the Monument 10K run and charitable giving that the Ukrop’s family has been active in for years. The smart move for any company in a merger or acquisition would be to pick up where the old company left off.
Aaron Kremer is the BizSense editor. Please send news tips to [email protected].