Strack & Van Til

Central Grocers said Tuesday that it was in talks to sell 22 stores operated by its largest retail customer, Strack & Van Til, and that it was closing Strack’s remaining nine stores beginning this week.

Central and Strack did not identify a buyer for the stores it intended to sell, but said it intended to sell them as going concerns. The company operates under the Strack & Van Til, Town & Country Market and Ultra banners in Illinois and Indiana, specifically the Chicagoland market. The nine stores that are closing all operate under the Ultra banner. Strack separately closed five stores last month.

Central, a $1.9 billion retailer-owned co-operative, would be losing its largest shareholder and most of its $700 billion in retail sales unless the stores were redistributed among existing or new co-op members. Sources said Central earlier this year engaged Peter J. Solomon Co. to seek strategic alternatives and that the process had produced “several indications of interest,” but it was unclear

Wednesday when or if a deal for Strack’s stores or Central’s distribution business would be forthcoming.

Strack & Van Til grew aggressively during a period of upheaval among Chicagoland grocers, as the corporate parents of longtime market leaders Jewel and Dominick’s struggled to invest in their brands earlier this decade. Jewel, however, has rebounded under ownership of Albertsons Cos., which took back control of the chain from Supervalu in 2013. In the meantime, Dominick’s…