"We're sitting on pins and needles."
It was late June 1992, and Chenango County economic developer Robert Hammons was referring to the deal involving the sale of the Norwich-based Victory Markets to a Long Island investment group. The concern was about the status of hundreds of local jobs at the company's headquarters and warehouses.
It had only been about six years since Victory had been bought in a leveraged deal by LNC Industries of Australia. In 1992, Victory markets was running 77 Great American Food Stores in New York state.
On Friday, June 19, Victory announced that it entered a "definite agreement" to sell all of its equity to Long Island-based Center Capital Investors, a private investment firm involving Aaron Malinsky, former executive vice president of A&P Supermarkets and president of Waldbaum's Inc.
Norwich and Chenango County officials had heard nothing from Victory or Centre Capital Investors about the deal, other than it was in the works.
That was until Tuesday morning, Aug. 18, when Malinsky made the announcement at a news conference in Utica that Victory Markets would be moving its operations to that city in the next few months.
Norwich stood to lose 580 jobs. There would be about 100 jobs available in Utica if employees wished to remain with the company.
No sooner than the ink was dry on the deal, security guards were brought in to Norwich offices and some workers were almost immediately escorted to the door with their personal belongings.
"The bottom has been pulled out from us and there was nothing we could have done," Mayor Marjorie Chomyszak said.
Not long before she became mayor, the city of Norwich had lent Victory Markets millions of dollars in federal money during the 1980s to help the company build a state-of-the-art facility.
A plan was pitched in early October of that year for more than 300 unionized workers affected by the move to Utica, to purchase several of the Victory facilities in Norwich and convert them into an employee-operated grocery distribution business.
Centre Capital Investors turned down the offer to buy Victory property under an employee stock option purchase plan.
"We were surprised because this was feasible and financeable," Hammons said. "It did not appear they gave it a lot of consideration because they did not ask us one single question from the time it was submitted until they rejected it," on Wednesday, Oct. 14.
The jobs departed and the former Victory properties were vacant, but for only a short time. The Daily Star reported that a majority of the space had been leased, but that the majority of the jobs lost in the move to Utica had not been replaced.
The Centre Capital Investors move to Utica enjoyed little success, as the company had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1995. Great American Stores in Oneonta, New Berlin and the Binghamton area had closed during 1995-96, according to a Star article from May 1996.
A loan was also granted in federal bankruptcy court to Victory Markets in May 1996. That was the last gasp, as the chain soon went bankrupt. Many of the stores were sold and are still run under the Great American name. You won't find one in Norwich, as the last store closed in the city in February 1998.
The former Victory Markets' headquarters at 54 E. Main St. is now the site of a shopping plaza, anchored by Tops Friendly Markets.
This weekend: an 1862 Fourth of July in Oneonta.
City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or e-mail him at email@example.com. His website is www.oneontahistorian.com. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/marksimonson.
"We're sitting on pins and needles."
- Mark Simonson
General Clinton Canoe Regatta got a new home in 1972
Ever since 1963, when Charles Hinkley and a group of Tri-Town businessmen came up with the idea for what we know today as the General Clinton Canoe Regatta, people lined the shores of the Susquehanna to watch the canoeists as they made their 70-mile trek from Cooperstown to Bainbridge.
Sunday movies in Oneonta finally shown in 1934
You know an issue is divisive when a vote to resolve it is quite close. In Oneonta during the early 1930s there were probably plenty of discussions or arguments at the family dinner table or sermons from the pulpits on Sunday mornings, regarding whether or should be able to see a movie in Oneonta on Sunday.
Politics, fitness and landmarks dominated local news in May 1968
Area residents mulled over the idea of Gov. Nelson Rockefeller as their next President of the United States. New fitness opportunities emerged for all ages. One area landmark was saved while another was razed. It was only a part of our life and times in May 1968.
Local people sought income in many ways in 1933
In the economy that was the Great Depression, there were times people would do what it took to try to earn some money.
Local windstorm in 1983 caused tense moments
I realize I've got the wrong month in mind when I say "May came in like a lion." However, that's what happened in 1983 as a number of twisters moved through our region, leaving plenty of damage behind in their trails. Add some melting snow and heavy rain, and scenes of cleanups were widespread 30 years ago this month.
- Saturday, May 4, 2013
Disaster, expansions put people to work in May 1913
- Monday, April 29, 2013
Job opportunities abounded in area 45 years ago
If you were looking for a job in April 1968 in our area, or perhaps looking to change your employment situation in the near future, opportunities were pointing in your favor.
- Saturday, April 27, 2013
Oneonta greeted an aviation giant in 1928
An early aviation superstar came to Oneonta in 1928.
- Monday, April 22, 2013
Area saw its own armed standoffs 30 years ago
This past Friday, we watched how the Boston area went into a lockdown during a tense search for the last suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. Had I still been living and working in that area, as I was in the early 1990s, I would have had a day off from work Friday, as police scoured the city of Waltham.
- Saturday, April 20, 2013
U.S.S. Maine explosion, war drew much local sentiment
For most people in our area in early 1898, a growing conflict between two distant nations probably didn't get much attention, other than some glances at the newspaper. When a young Oneonta man was one of many injured or killed in an explosion of a battleship he was aboard, the local attention increased markedly to what was soon to become the Spanish-American War.
- Monday, April 15, 2013
Oneonta river walking path came from a surveyor's daydream
Leon Kalmus of Oneonta spent a lot of time surveying land near the Susquehanna River in the early 1970s around the time Interstate 88 was being planned and built in this area. What he saw along the shores of the river, he called â€œpristine,â€� and soon had an idea for some kind of walking or hiking pathway along the shores of the river in the town of Oneonta.
- Saturday, April 13, 2013
Decline of Prohibition led to return of beer in April 1933
â€œI think this would be a good time for a beer,â€� remarked President Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he signed the Cullen-Harrison Act on March 22, 1933. This marked the beginning of the end for Prohibition that year.
- Monday, April 8, 2013
Dietz Street shifted from residential to commercial through the years
By taking a walk along Dietz Street today, heading north to Walnut Street, one can see a lot of businesses and the recently refurbished parking lot on the east side of the street. It would take some imagination to see this street lined with houses and a church, but prior to the late 1940s, thatâ€™s what was there.
- Saturday, April 6, 2013
Oneontans voted for a 'dry' city in 1918
- Monday, April 1, 2013
Future city historian kept family busy for Easter and April 1958
- Saturday, March 30, 2013
Colliscroft became new Oneonta landmark in 1902
If the Oneonta building trade sector of the economy could have awarded a plaque to a most valuable individual customer of 1902, it would have nearly been a shoo-in. That was Edward H. Pardee, who was listed in the Oneonta Directory around that time as a farmer, on Southside.
- Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Historic Cooperstown cottage got a new address in 1988
To unknowing tourists seeking information from the tourism information center at 31 Chestnut St. in Cooperstown, they would probably believe that the mid-19th century cottage had always been on that site. It blends in well with some of the grand old houses along that street, and the same tourists might think it has an interesting history behind it.
- Saturday, March 23, 2013
Free mail delivery began in Oneonta 125 years ago
- Monday, March 18, 2013
Oneonta enacted first building code 60 years ago
There will be no parade, fireworks display or commemorative coins minted for the occasion.
- Saturday, March 16, 2013
Area isolated during historic March 1888 snowstorm
Earlier in the week, we recalled the "Blizzard of 1993," which was one containing historic snowfall that fell on our region on Saturday, March 13. It was the largest recorded in a single local snowfall in the 20th century, and ever since another storm dating back 105 years. The latter snowfall was worse than the 1993 storm, falling overnight into Tuesday, March 13, 1888. It was commonly referred to as the "Blizzard of 1888."
- General Clinton Canoe Regatta got a new home in 1972