"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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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
Local pipeline construction stirred controversy in 1964
Unlike the proposed Constitution Pipeline project, planned to bring natural gas from northeast Pennsylvania through our region to a terminal in Schoharie County, another pipeline project built from Watkins Glen to Selkirk generated considerably less local controversy 50 years ago.
Natural gas drilling efforts of the 1880s found little locally
There was no such process as hydraulic fracturing. New York didn't have a Department of Environmental Conservation. Lawn signs for or against it weren't seen anywhere. Yet natural gas drilling efforts were going on in our region more 125 years ago. It was an industry still in its infancy. Numerous reports were published in local newspapers during the late 1880s and beyond.
Beauty, grooming took center stage in Oneonta in March 1964
Good grooming, beauty and style seemed to be a recurring theme in the news around Oneonta during the month of March 1964.
Local news, opinion often mixed in 1889 newspapers
Modern-day newspapers make it very clear where local news is found, as well as opinion, separated by their own pages in weekly or daily editions, including The Daily Star.
Gasoline, demons and baseball were 'trending' locally in 1974
"Trending" has become a popular word in our present everyday language. This word wasn't used in February 1974, but for what I write twice weekly, it could just as well have applied to local history.
- Saturday, February 22, 2014
Early efforts to halt Silver Creek were slow going
Incidents of Silver Creek overflowing into the streets of Oneonta aren't making news as often as they once did.
- Monday, February 17, 2014
Effort to establish Oneonta historic district began in 1970s
- Saturday, February 15, 2014
Experiment to treat inebriates began 150 years ago
Dr. J. Edward Turner came up with a unique idea in the 1840s on how to treat and restrain inebriates in the United States. Turne
- Monday, February 10, 2014
Milford fought over new school 30 years ago
At times nearly 30 years ago, the future of the Milford Central School District could have been portrayed as a weathervane, spinning in directions of either a new school, consolidation, or closing. The â€œwindsâ€� changed considerably between 1984 and 1988, but the end result was a new school in the village before the end of the decade.
- Saturday, February 8, 2014
Military camp, jobs, new Sidney church made news in February 1934
Despite bitter cold February weather, some already had summer camp on their minds, including one camp that may not be very popular today. A re-employment service was experiencing unusual success during the Great Depression. Also, a new church opened in Sidney. All were part of our local life and times in February 1934.
- Monday, February 3, 2014
The Farm of Franklin became a 'commercial for God' in the 1970s
Their mission was pretty simple.
- Saturday, February 1, 2014
Oneonta businesses expanded, bonded in February 1904
While some of Oneonta's businesses were changing hands or expanding, some of them paused to remember one leader who helped make the village's overall prosperity possible. Other business people who had previously worked in a bit of vacuum saw the benefits of working together for a better business climate. It was part of Oneonta's "Business Beat" of February 1904, as read in The Oneonta Star.
- Monday, January 27, 2014
Business changes, energy conservation made news in January 1974
Our family's automotive parts store business on Valleyview Street in Oneonta was no place to be if you wore a short-sleeve shirt to work in January 1974.
- Saturday, January 25, 2014
Oneonta students responded strongly to Victory Corps in 1943
Oneontans seem to have a history of responding when being called upon to help. Earlier this week, when our local radio stations held an on-air fundraising event to help rebuild the Doc Knapp Little League field, after being hit hard by vandals last weekend, a goal of $3,000 was set. Local listeners responded with more than $10,000 in only two hours.
- Monday, January 20, 2014
Debates, updates dominated local education news in 1969
Need for another local college was debated, departures of two longtime college administrators, and the dedication of a new occupational center made local news during January 1969.
- Saturday, January 18, 2014
Civil War deserters challenged local law enforcers in 1864
Area law enforcers had their hands full with rough and tumble activities in the early months of 1864. While there were still many enlisting in the Civil War, there were also many local deserters from the front lines, and it was the latter men who challenged the authorities. These accounts came from January editions of The Oneonta Herald.
- Monday, January 13, 2014
Otsego Habitat for Humanity got start 25 years ago
Here's proof that good things can happen on any Friday the 13th. A potluck supper was held on Friday, Jan. 13, 1989 at the First United Methodist Church at 66 Chestnut St. in Oneonta, and over some good, shared food came the start of a positive mission in Otsego County.
- Saturday, January 11, 2014
Winters spent differently by Worcester residents in 1914
I hope you've been coping with the wild roller coaster ride of temperatures we've experienced the last few weeks, from the teeth chattering cold to days we could break out the barbecue grills. Worcester residents had an adventure in coping with the winter weather 100 years ago, while a few others from the village had it a bit easier.
- Monday, January 6, 2014
Moving clocks forward caused local controversy in January 1974
- Saturday, January 4, 2014
Juvenile delinquents stressed local authorities in 1919
As Oneontans turned over their calendars to January 1919, they soon learned that the city had a problem of bad behavior amongst some of their youngest citizens. News was abundant and reported in The Oneonta Star, and by February a crusade was called for to turn the tide on juvenile delinquency.
- Local pipeline construction stirred controversy in 1964