Stop and Shop Buys King Kullen

On the South Fork, there is a King Kullen in the Bridgehampton Commons. Durell Godfrey

King Kullen, the family-controlled 88-year-old company that proudly called itself America's first supermarket, announced on Friday that it has been bought by its regional competitor, the Stop and Shop Supermarket Company.

For now, the fate of King Kullen's local stores and employees remains unclear.

A press release issued by Stop and Shop's corporate office on Friday said the company, which is headquartered in Quincy, Mass., will purchase the King Kullen Grocery Store Co., which includes King Kullen's existing corporate office in Bethpage, 32 supermarkets, and five Wild by Nature stores throughout Suffolk and Nassau Counties.

On the East End, King Kullen has stores in Bridgehampton, Cutchogue, Manorville, Eastport, and Hampton Bays (where a Stop and Shop and Wild by Nature stores are located nearby as well). The chain was founded in 1930 by Michael J. Cullen, a former Kroger executive who felt his vision for a better way of doing business went unheeded by his bosses. Mr. Cullen decided to start his own company, beginning with a flagship store on Jamaica Avenue in Queens that the Smithsonian has since recognized as the first in America "to fulfill all five criteria that define the modern supermarket: separate departments, self-service, discount pricing, chain marketing, and volume dealing."

King Kullen had been exploring more innovations such as online shopping and delivery service in some areas before the sale was announced.

"As a family-owned and operated business, we are very proud of our heritage and extremely grateful to all of our associates and customers for their support over the years," Brian Cullen, co-president of King Kullen, said in a statement. "We are confident the Stop and Shop brand will carry on our legacy of service in the region."

The transaction is expected to be completed in the first quarter of this year. No purchase price was given.

Jennifer Brogan, Stop and Shop's director of communications, has said it is too early to know what Stop and Shop's plans for any existing King Kullen locations will be. "We're just focused on announcing the acquisition for now," Ms. Brogan wrote via email. "We'll be evaluating stores and making those decisions in the near future."

According to the company's website, Stop and Shop is an Ahold Delhaize holding that employs more than 61,000 people and operates over 400 stores throughout New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.