MANATEE -- Stung by the recession and competition from Big Box stores, Albertsons grocery store chain announced Tuesday it is closing 13 stores in Florida, including its Manatee Avenue location in Bradenton and its Lockwood Ridge Road store.
The stores are closing June 9. The move leaves only four stores operating in the state -- in Clearwater, Altamonte Springs, Oakland Park and Largo.
An estimated 1,100 employees will be affected, said Albertsons Public Affairs Director Christine Wilcox. Of those, 77 are located at the 7415 Manatee Ave. store, which has been operating since 1982, and 90 at the 8415 Lockwood Ridge store.
"We've had to make a strategic decision in Florida to go with the stores that are doing the best," Wilcox said. "Everything from the cost of fuel to paying utilities has had a big impact."
The company also is closing its Plant City distribution center, she said.
Employees at the Manatee Avenue store, some in uniform and others in street clothes, were seen leaving the store Tuesday with forms in their hands. They declined to comment on the store's closing, as did the store manager.
Bradenton resident Susan Cunningham has been shopping at that Albertsons since 1993. She said the combination of its prices and location made the store a convenient destination.
"The people who live downtown, where can they shop?" she asked. "We don't need to lose another grocery store."
Cunningham said the majority of her neighbors shop at the Albertsons on Manatee Avenue, although a Publix is located directly across the street. Cunningham said she avoids parking and traffic issues at Publix.
"I believe in competition," she said. "Competition is good because now you'll come down here and Publix will charge as much as they want to."
More competition is on the way. Just a few blocks east of Albertsons, Benderson Development Co. is in the midst of building The Fresh Market, a gourmet and specialty food market planning to open in the Northwest Promenade at 6705 Manatee Ave.
John Thomas, owner of John Thomas Studio of Hair Design, purchased space in the shopping center that includes the Albertsons three years ago. He said he doesn't want to see another business leave the complex.
"It's not going to help us, that's for sure," he said.
Albertsons, headquartered in Boise, Idaho, took a hit to its presence in the state when Publix bought 49 of the stores in 2008 for $500 million.
The company is working with its laid off employees to see if they can be transferred to other stores, Wilcox said. The chain operates stores from Arizona to Louisiana.
Manatee Avenue store is a leased location and the Lockwood Ridge store is company owned and has been operating since 2000.
-- Reporter Nick Williams contributed to this report.