Customers file in and out of the Tops grocery store on Washington Street Thursday afternoon in Watertown. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — One grocery store name will leave the north country supermarket chain landscape, while another one is coming back.

The two Tops Friendly Markets in Watertown have been sold to a national wholesale grocer that’s bringing back the Grand Union name.

Watertown resident Don Thornton will miss the Washington Street Tops where he’s been going for years.

“It’s the only place we shop,” he said, adding that he is surprised it will become a Grand Union given the chain had been defunct for years.

“That’s years ago,” he said.

Tops stores in Lowville and Adams will remain open.

The two Watertown Tops stores, one on Washington Street and the other in Seaway Plaza, have been around for about a decade.

The sale is the result of the merger of Tops Friendly Markets and Price Chopper. Tops announced earlier this week that the merger was finalized after approval from the Federal Trade Commission.

Steve and Carol Falk just assumed that the Watertown stores were going to be turned into Price Choppers because they knew about the merger.

Liking the weekly specials, selective goods, produce and meats, they said they might drive down to Adams to shop at the Tops there.

“Definitely, we’re going to miss it,” she said.

As for the acquisition, C&S Wholesale, the nation’s biggest grocer supplier, purchased the two Watertown Tops and 10 others. C&S will be bringing back the Grand Union name from oblivion.

The deal will be closed in the coming weeks and the Tops stores will reopen under the Grand Union banner in mid-January to mid-February, according to a press release.

Gregory P. Gorea, secretary and treasurer for the United Food Commercial Workers Local 1, said that all the Tops union members will become employees of Grand Union.

The other new Grand Union stores will be in Peru, Cortlandville, Cooperstown, Norwich, Owego, Rome, Saranac Lake, Sherrill, Warrensburg and Rutland, Vt.

It was Tops that converted the last 12 Grand Union stores that it acquired in the Adirondack Mountains in 2012.

With that, the Grand Union name faded into history — until now.

GU Markets LLC, an affiliate of C&S Wholesale Grocers, will operate the Grand Union stores.

Dennis Kane, editor of Today's Grocer, a food market industry publication, said that the Grand Union name is really the only part of the old chain that will be revived.

“The Grand Union is not the Grand Union that you and I knew,” he said, adding that C&S “is just affixing the name.”

Other chains throughout the country have revived supermarket chains as the result of acquisitions, Mr. Kane said.

In the last several years, C&S Wholesale, Keene, N.H., has become the largest grocery wholesaler in the country, based on revenue.

Founded in 1918, C&S supplies more than 7,700 independent supermarkets, chain stores, military bases and institutions with over 137,000 different products.

In 2010, the Washington Street store had been a Big M store when it was purchased by the Buffalo-area chain and converted into Tops, along with other Big M stores in Sandy Creek, Boonville and the one in Adams. They were purchased from brothers William J. and Gordon G. Bonisteel.

Grand Union had a presence in the north country until the early 1980s. The Great American chain purchased Grand Union stores in Alexandria Bay and Clayton in 1982 and renamed them.

Decades ago, Grand Union had stores on Arsenal Street in Watertown and another in Gouverneur.

The New Jersey-based Grand Union chain, dating back to 1872, was forced into Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2001 and sold 185 stores to C&S Wholesale Grocers, according to Today’s Grocer.

The Grand Union chain was scaled down by C&S, which retained stores in New York and New England.

The combined Price Chopper and Tops will be overseen by a new parent company, Northeast Grocery Inc., which will operate nearly 300 stores between Tops and Price Chopper/Market 32.

Northeast Grocery and Price Chopper will both have their headquarters in Schenectady, while Tops will continue to be headquartered in Williamsville.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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