Alabama-based retailer Belle Foods LLC has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Court documents filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Alabama July 1 indicate the retailer intends to continue to operate retail stores during the bankruptcy, with oversight from the court.
The filing said that Belle Foods, Decatur, Ala., is a privately held company that operates 57 stores in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi under the banners of Belle Foods, Piggly Wiggly and Food World.
The company, founded in December 2011 by the father and son team of Bill White and Jeff White, has more than 2,850 employees, according to the court filing. Belle Foods acquired its 57 stores from Southern Family Markets on June 29 of last year and still owes Southern Family about $28 million in loans from that transaction.
Belle Foods said in its filing that it is also obligated to C&S Wholesale Grocers in the approximate amounts of $900,000 on a pension withdrawal liability note, and $5.1 million in accounts payable, with liabilities of about $8 million on other accounts payable to trade and other creditors.
Belle Foods said in court documents that the bankruptcy filing was caused by increased competition, higher payroll taxes, a deterioration in business and a lack of liquidity. The company’s older store locations struggled to compete with newer grocery stores in its markets, according to the court document.