Andronico's on Telegraph, one of the four stores in Berkeley. Photo: Tracey Taylor

There are signs that Andronico’s, the local supermarket chain founded in Berkeley in 1929, faces some serious commercial problems. According to a recent report in the San Francisco Chronicle, a number of suppliers are having difficulties being paid. A commenter to Berkeleyside’s recent coverage on Monterey Market reported that two Andronico’s workers were talking about their pay checks being delayed.

Andronico’s has four stores in Berkeley: on Solano (the company’s original store), on Shattuck, on Telegraph, and on University. According to people familiar with the business, the Shattuck and Solano stores do significantly more business than the other two locations. 

At its peak, Andronico’s had 14 stores in the Bay Area, but today there are only eight. Last month, the company moved its headquarters offices from its long-time Albany home to a space over the flagship store in San Francisco. Last year, Andronico’s, which is in its third generation of family ownership under Chairman and CEO Bill Andronico, had a major management shake-up, with four new executives arriving from rival Whole Foods Market.

Andronico’s established a reputation as a seller of premium items, but it faces particularly tough competition in Berkeley from Whole Foods and the two Berkeley Bowl locations for premium goods. At the lower end, it is squeezed by Safeway’s, as well as big box retailers like nearby Costco.

Berkeleyside’s call to the Andronico’s corporate office was not returned at time of publication.

If one or more of the Andronico’s sites were closed, there are reports that Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, an El Segundo-based chain that has grown from zero to nearly 200 stores in four years, has been scouting for a Berkeley location. Fresh & Easy is a subsidiary of UK-based Tesco, the world’s third largest retailer. Fresh & Easy claims to offer big box-style discounts in smaller locations. Andronico’s is a unionized store, unlike Fresh & Easy.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...