Layoffs on way at SAJ facility


An unspecified number of workers at the SAJ Distributors facility here are losing their jobs.

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based L&R Distributors Inc. agreed in November to buy the assets of the local product distributing plant, which had been part of a $438-million purchase of the USA Drug chain. USA Drug, which was based in Pine Bluff, was sold in July to the Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen Co.

James Graham, a Walgreen spokesman, said Monday that SAJ workers were informed a week ago that “L&R plans to offer jobs to more than half of the current distribution facility employees” here, “plus a number of additional employees” at the local plant.

“L&R also plans to retain the entire SAJ sales force, located across a multistate area,” Graham said. “Because they became Walgreens employees when SAJ was acquired as a part of the USA Drug transaction, employees whose positions are eliminated will continue for a short time as Walgreens employees after the closing of the L&R transition, which is expected to occur in February. Those former SAJ employees who are not hired by L&R will receive severance from Walgreens if eligible.”

SAJ management has not returned calls for comment.

At the time of L&R’s announcement of its purchase of SAJ, it was reported that SAJ employed “between 250 and 3oo” persons here. The numbers were attributed to Chris Hart, chairman of the Pine Bluff Chamber of Commerce and vice president for personnel and community relations at Central Moloney in Pine Bluff. L&R Senior Vice President Reilly Murray reported that his company would employ about 150 workers at the distribution center and about 90 salespeople.

L&R reported that it would retain many SAJ staff members who were working in accounting, customer service, operations and purchasing.

With 2011 sales of $72 billion, Walgreens is the nation’s largest drug chain, operating nearly 8,000 drug stores in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

USA Drug and its subsidiaries — including Super D Drug, May’s Drugs, med-X and Drug Warehouse — had reported 2011 sales of $825 million.

A new Walgreens store on West 28th Avenue is scheduled to open Friday, Feb. 8, a day after a nearby USA Drug location will close. A Super D location on Hazel Street is slated to close in late February. Most of the employees at the USA and Super D stores will have jobs at the Walgreens location.