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

Andronico’s Markets, the 82-year old supermarket chain founded in Berkeley, filed today for bankruptcy in Oakland. Four of the seven existing Andronico’s stores are in Berkeley: on Telegraph, Shattuck, University and Solano (the original store, founded in 1929).

Berkeleyside reported on the financial difficulties of the chain in May, and on a short-lived recapitalization plan.

The company’s announcement quotes CEO Bill Andronico today: “This is a bittersweet moment in our history. We have struggled mightily to keep going, but the combination of the economic downturn and a broken balance sheet was too heavy a burden.” In its bankruptcy filing, the chain listed debts of between $10 million and $50 million. The company is negotiating for financing and is also considering a sale to a private investor group.

The four Berkeley Andronico’s stores have been suffering recently from thin stocking of goods in comparison to local rivals. At the high end, it faces tough competition from two Berkeley Bowl locations and Whole Foods Markets. Safeway, which has ambitious plans to renovate its Berkeley and Berkeley-border sites, provides significant middle-market competition, and Costco in Richmond and Grocery Outlet (a Berkeley-based company) provide low-cost competition.

Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, a four-year old chain owned by the giant UK company Tesco, has been looking for a Berkeley site, according to people familiar with commercial property in the area. Depending on the financing Andronico’s secures from bankruptcy, at least one of the Berkeley Andronico’s sites might be a target.

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...