Marsh Supermarkets Inc. has closed a store in Rushville and plans to shut down others in Shelbyville and Connersville by the end of February.
The decision to close the three stores leaves the local supermarket chain without a presence in Shelby County’s largest community for the first time in roughly 20 years.
Shelbyville Mayor Scott Furgeson was unaware of Marsh’s plans when told of the expected closing.
“It’s a big surprise,” he said. “It will leave another big box sitting there. That’s the bad thing.”
The store in Shelbyville is located on East State Road 44 on the east side of the city in a shopping center anchored by Marsh. The complex already has four or five vacant storefronts and just one other tenant, Furgeson said.
Marsh will be the second grocery to exit Shelbyville within a year, leaving the city with Kroger, Wal-Mart, Aldi and the local Mickey’s T-Mart. The J.R. Western Supermarket on Miller Avenue ceased operations in February 2010.
Competition is fierce in the grocery business everywhere, as discounters like Wal-Mart continue to siphon off customers.
In a prepared statement, Marsh attributed the Shelbyville closing to a continual review and evaluation of company assets, processes and business plans.
“While the decision to close a store is never easy, the Marsh management team is committed to improving operating results and strengthening the company’s position in our marketing areas,” the company said.
As many employees as possible will be given the opportunity to transfer to another location or be granted a severance package, Marsh said.
A spokeswoman declined to divulge how many employees worked at the store, saying the company does not make that information public.
In Connersville, meanwhile, a store closing on Park Road leaves the east-central Indiana city with one other Marsh store, on Virginia Avenue, which will be converted to a MainStreet Market.
The MainStreet Market concept is an attempt to differentiate the grocery chain’s offerings in hopes of making them more marketable.
Stores in Lebanon, Wabash and Franklin were renamed MainStreet Markets in November.
Company officials said then that the move is a fine-tuning of a strategy launched in 2006 to distinguish the smaller Marsh Hometown Markets from the Marsh the Marketplace locations, which are more upscale and have a wider array of products.
Keeping Marsh in the store name made it harder for customers to draw that distinction, officials said.
An expiring lease for the Connersville store on Park Road helped prompt Marsh’s decision to close the store, the company said in a statement.
As many employees at the store as possible also will be given the opportunity to transfer to another location or be granted a severance package, Marsh said.
The Marsh store in Rushville closed on Friday. Following the slated closures in Shelbyville and Connersville in February, Marsh will have 97 stores. About half of those are in Indianapolis.
Marsh is owned by Florida-based Sun Capital Partners. It hired an investment adviser and solicited offers in 2009 to sell the chain, but got no takers.