Highland-based grocery store chain Strack & Van Til plans to buy seven WiseWay and PayLow locations from WiseWay Supermarkets, according to a joint news release the companies issued Tuesday.
Terms of the deal between the two privately held companies were not disclosed. The deal is expected to close in December.
The WiseWay stores are expected to become Strack & Van Til stores, and PayLow locations will be converted to Ultra Foods. Merrillville-based WiseWay will continue to operate its WiseWay store in Winfield and the WiseGuys Discount Liquors chain.
Strack & Van Til currently operates 30 stores in Northwest Indiana and the Chicago metropolitan area and has about 5,000 employees. Strack & Van Til President David Wilkinson said he estimates between 600 to 700 employees from WiseWay will join Strack & Van Til, which is the largest grocery store chain in Northwest Indiana.
In interviews Tuesday, Wilkinson and WiseWay President Don Weiss said the cultures of both companies are similar and that will facilitate the integration of stores and employees into Strack & Van Til family. Store conversions and sign changes should be complete early next year, Wilkinson said. Additions are being made to the Strack & Van Til Highland headquarters to accommodate more staff.
"It won't be such a culture change for our (new) employees," Wilkinson said. "The stores are very similar in size. It fits in very nicely."
Both companies also are part of the Joliet-based retail cooperative Central Grocers, and Wilkinson said the converted stores should contain brands similar to what WiseWay and PayLow shoppers are used to buying.
Strack & Van Til currently is building a store in Cedar Lake and working to have one built in Prospect Heights, Ill. Wilkinson also said the company will temporarily close the PayLow store at 6001 Broadway in Merrillville for renovations, according to the news release. A renovation is in progress at the WiseWay store at 2800 Calumet Ave. in Valparaiso.
Weiss said the acquisition provides employees greater job security and allows his company to "move ahead at an increased speed" to develop and redevelop real estate. Through subsidiaries, Weiss said he has an ownership interest in Merrill Point Center in Merrillville, Coolwood Plaza in Valparaiso and the soon-to-be-complete Prairie Point apartment complex in Merrillville. He also is seeking to develop an apartment complex and business park in Valparaiso.
Wilkinson said the acquisition helps Strack & Van Til "grow our top line sales" and helps the company enter markets where it doesn't have a presence. When asked if the company was eyeing additional acquisitions within the region, he said the company is always looking for strategic acquisitions that make sense.
WiseWay traces its roots to Weiss' father, Marvin "Mickey" Weiss, opening a small store in Gary in 1940. The first Strack & Van Til store opened in 1960, but Wilkinson said both Nick Van Til and Ernie Strack began operating stores separately in Northwest Indiana in the 1930s.