Wesley Chapel Sweetbay shoppers can breathe easy, as the two locations nearest to your area will remain open in the midst of a mass closing by the supermarket chain.

According to a press release on January 16 from Sweetbay Supermarkets, the company is closing 33 stores in Florida, 22 of which are located in the Tampa Bay area, including the New Tampa location on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. near I-75. The under-performing stores are set to close by mid-February, the release says.

Not on the closing list, however, are the S.R. 54 location in the Wesley Chapel Towne Center and the BBD/County Line Rd. store.

“While these decisions are difficult, especially given the impact on our associates, customers and communities, these actions will continue to enhance the performance of our overall store portfolio and further enable us to deliver profitable growth and accelerate shareholder value,” the release said.

Sweetbay — which replaced the now-defunct Kash-N-Karry grocery store chain beginning in 2004 — had 105 different locations at the end of 2011 across the western coast of Florida. Once the announced closings are complete, the chain will retain only 72 of those locations, leaving more than 2,000 employees without jobs.

Sweetbay spokesperson Nicole LeBeau says that there are between 50 and 60 employees at each store.

“Full- and part-time associates at the stores are all being offered severance packages,” she says. “We have (Human Resources) reps who will sit down and meet with each associate at each affected store.”

LeBeau says that the terms of the packages will depend mostly upon tenure with the company. She says positions will be available at other area stores; however, due to the number of workers displaced, any positions available could be filled quickly.

No comment was available from the BBD location’s store manager at our press time, although the sale to clear the inventory from the BBD store is under way, starting with a 25-percent discount on everything in the store. A Sweetbay Liquor Store employee said the discounts were being increased every few days and that the store was expected to close by Feb. 13.

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