By Rick Radin
EL CERRITO -- The city will be losing a well-known home and garden brand in the next couple of months as a result of the bankruptcy and sale of its parent company.
San Jose-based Orchard Supply Hardware, with a store at 1751 Eastshore Blvd. in El Cerrito, declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June and is selling many of its store locations to Lowe's Companies Inc., that operates big-box home improvement outlets similar to Home Depot.
Orchard Supply is closing 17 of its 99 stores, including the 8-year-old El Cerrito store, as part of the sale agreement, said company spokeswoman Leigh Parrish of FTI Consulting in New York.
The rest of the stores will continue with the Orchard Supply brand under Lowe's ownership, she said.
Orchard Supply evaluated each store's past performance in determining which stores to close, she said.
The El Cerrito store is now being operated by an auction and appraisal company that is selling off its merchandise before closure.
"We don't have a specific time frame for closure, but it depends on when the merchandise sell-offs are complete," Parrish said.
A typical Orchard Supply store has about 55 employees, Parrish said. Workers at the stores that are closing are not eligible for severance pay in a bankruptcy proceeding, but Orchard Supply is "providing incentive bonuses to key employees," she said.
El Cerrito's Orchard Supply outlet was in an uncomfortable position, in the middle in size between the Home Depot on San Pablo Avenue and smaller retailers, such as Pastime Hardware, said Dwayne Dalman, the city's senior economic development program manager.
The store's location could have been a minus as well, he said.
"It's fairly close to San Pablo, but not directly on San Pablo," Dalman said.
Orchard Supply is subletting the building from the Kroger grocery chain, he said.
"We're trying to help identify other tenants who would work well for that space, that would create something positive for the community," Dalman said.
Orchard Supply was founded as a purchasing co-op in San Jose in 1931. It was spun off from Sears and became a public company at the end of 2011, Parrish said.