SUPERVALU Unveils Region's Largest Natural Gas Powered Truck Fleet and New Fill Station

A visitor inspects the new CNG trucks at the ribbon-cutting event as Supervalu unveils its natural-gas-powered truck fleet and fast-fuel CNG station at the company's distribution center, on Friday, Dec. 6, 2013 in Mechanicsville, Va.

Kevin Wolf

Troubled Strack & Van Til parent company Central Grocers finally found a buyer for its 930,000-square-foot warehouse in Joliet, which it had been trying to unload since December.

U.S. Bankruptcy Court Northern District of Illinois Judge Pamela S. Hollis approved a sale of the distribution center Tuesday. Supervalu is buying it in a deal valued at $61 million.

Suburban Minneapolis-based Supervalu distributes to more than 2,000 stores across the country, including in the Chicago area. It's replaced Central Grocer as the supplier to some of the 400 independent grocery stores it served in Northwest Indiana and greater Chicagoland.

"We've recently added several new customers, who are formally supplied by Central Grocers and we hope to build on that success over the balance of the year," Supervalu President and Chief Executive Officer Mark Gross said in a conference call with investors.

Supervalu Chief Strategy Officer Robert Woseth said during the conference call that the Central Grocers customers helped drive a $280 million wholesale revenue increase.

"We began shipping to some of the former Central Grocers customers as well during the quarter," he said. 

About 550 workers, truckers and logistics workers worked at the warehouse in Joliet that Central Grocers opened in 2009, but the cooperative has been laying them off since it filed for bankruptcy May 4.

Central Grocers, which once was the seventh largest grocery wholesaler in the country with $2 billion in revenue a year, has laid off more than 2,000 workers this year, mostly at the shuttered Strack & Van Til and Ultra Foods stores.

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Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.