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Lawsuits fly in Friedman's fracas

September 5, 2018 News Extra

Friedman's Freshmarket's Greater Butler Mart store after it was announced in January that the company's remaining stores would close.

A flurry of lawsuits between Friedman's Freshmarkets and its distributor and landlord, Merchants Distributors (MDI), could be holding up the sale of the local grocery store chain's buildings.

While rumors swirl that various grocery store chains are poised to buy the Friedman's business and self-owned stores, Friedman's and MDI are engaged in a legal battle in both county and federal court.

The three remaining Friedman's Freshmarket stores — in the Greater Butler Mart, Saxonburg and Chicora — closed in late January following an issue with the company's distributor, MDI of Hickory, N.C., that caused dwindling inventory on the stores' shelves, according to Carole Bitter, president and CEO of the supermarket chain.

Since then, Bitter has refused to comment regarding any plan to sell the stores to another grocery chain, saying she is bound by a nondisclosure order.

And as residents continue to exchange rumors and speculation as to which company might ultimately make the vacant stores home, Friedman's and MDI have exchanged lawsuits and legal filings.

According to a lawsuit filed last month in county court, MDI immediately after the stores' closings filed a lawsuit in federal court for breach of contract, claiming Friedman's failed to make payments to MDI for food distribution services that total $469,167.

MDI also filed a complaint of mortgage foreclosure on March 7 in county court against Friedman's for “a mortgage dated Oct. 14, 2016” in which Friedman's borrowed $1.7 million from MDI.

Read more about this story in Thursday's Butler Eagle.