Piggly Wiggly

Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. Inc. sold or shuttered many of its stores in 2013. It's parent company, Greenbax Enterprises, now says the company has no value and will be unable to distribute any money to former workers enrolled in the employee stock ownership plan. File/Staff

The parent of a fallen Charleston supermarket chain is embarking on a big real estate sale, as former employees are lining up in a class-action lawsuit to recoup millions in lost retirement benefits.

Greenbax Enterprises, parent of Piggly Wiggly Carolina Co. Inc., is set to shed itself of 14 shopping centers in South Carolina and Georgia by Tuesday to a Virginia company under revised financial terms, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Six Greenbax affiliates are selling the properties for $69 million, down from $71 million in cash offered in December. In addition to the cash payment, Greenbax will get 888,889 partnership common units in the Virginia Beach-based purchaser, Wheeler Real Estate Investment.

Three local retail properties are changing hands in the deal: Folly Road Crossing on James Island, Ladson Crossing in Ladson and a Piggly Wiggly store in Moncks Corner.

Piggly Wiggly Carolina sold off or shuttered many of its supermarkets in 2013 after its finances deteriorated.

In February, two former employees sued the company and its top management in federal court to recoup millions of dollars in lost retirement benefits. They have alleged poor decisions and inaction by executives led to the ruin of one of the Lowcountry’s most prominent retail businesses.

The company and other defendants had requested and were granted more time to formally reply to the allegations based on the enormous complexity of the case.

The two ex-workers, representing a group that could be larger than 1,000 people, said senior officials with the grocer and Greenbax enriched themselves while the value of the employee-owned stock plan plummeted by nearly 90 percent, from $88.7 million in 2008 to $9 million last year.

The former workers who filed the case are seeking class-action status. As of last week, more than 200 people have been added to the complaint as plaintiffs, according to an attorney with the law firm of Wyche PA. More are expected to join.

Businesses owned by women are springing up in South Carolina at one of the fastest rates in the country, but the state lags in how many people they employ and how much money they bring in.

That’s the conclusion of a new report analyzing data from the Census Bureau. South Carolina is home to about 152,500 women-owned businesses, an increase of 53 percent from 2007, the sixth-fastest rate in the nation.

But their combined revenue only grew 11 percent, ranking No. 43 nationally, according to the report commissioned by American Express OPEN. Altogether, they accounted for $15.7 billion in sales.

Nationwide, businesses owned by women have been a bright spot in the economic recovery, said Julie Weeks, president of the consulting firm Womenable and an adviser to American Express. Start-up activity has been slow to pick up after the recession, but women-owned businesses have opened at a faster clip, she said.

Wal-Mart is cracking open the door to entrepreneurs who want to sell their “Made in the USA” products to the retail giant. The big “Open Call” takes place June 28 at the chain’s Bentonville, Ark., headquarters.

“We are opening our doors and making our buyers available to meet with suppliers with one goal in mind: buy more American products,” said Cindi Marsiglio, vice president of U.S. sourcing and manufacturing. “From food to toys to apparel, and companies large and small from coast to coast, we want to make a deal with you for your U.S. made products.”

The company announced in 2013 a commitment to boost job creation and U.S. manufacturing by buying an additional $250 billion in products that support American jobs over 10 years. The deadline to register — details are at walmart-jump.com — is May 27.

Wal-Mart is now carrying products from at least two Charleston-area companies under that effort. The giant retailer picked up seafood dips last year from Mount Pleasant-based Big T’s Coastal Provisions and placed them in 1,000 East Coast stores with the goal eventually to place them in all 4,618 stores nationwide. Wal-Mart also recently started carrying North Charleston’s Charleston Gourmet Burger sauces and marinades in stores in South Carolina and Georgia.

Small businesses and non-profits hurt by South Carolina’s heat and drought have only about another month to apply for federal loans aimed at getting them back on their feet.

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering loans up to $2 million for businesses that need help keeping up to date on debt payments, bills and payroll because of the drought formally declared last May. The deadline to apply is May 9.

Small businesses are charged 4 percent interest, and non-profits pay 2.625 percent, with terms up to 30 years. Businesses in every county in the state are eligible, but the Small Business Administration doesn’t issue loans to farmers or ranchers. To apply, call 800-659-2955 or go to http://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

It’s round two for a Florida beverage company that’s looking to invest in a North Charleston-based liquor maker.

South Beach Spirits Inc. said it has amended its previous letter of intent to acquire a 50 percent equity interest in Striped Pig Distillery LLC. This time, it did not disclose the financial terms of the proposed deal.

“The closing of the transaction is subject to the completion of due diligence, execution of definitive transaction documents between the parties and preparation of audited and unaudited financial statements for Striped Pig,” South Beach said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Striped Pig operating partners Jim Craig, Todd Weiss, Johnny Pieper and Juliana Harless said in a statement that the investment would allow the business “to accelerate the growth of its brand and improve overall production efficiencies and capacities at the distillery.”

In late 2015, the Sunrise, Fla.-based company reported that it had planned to issue 750,000 shares of its penny stock to acquire a half of the local distillery, though a representative of Striped Pig later said the details of that filing were inaccurate. The original deal also was to include $300,000 in cash for working capital.

Striped Pig is an artisanal producer of rum products, gin, vodka and other alcoholic products using local ingredients under its own name. The company also is a manufacturing contractor for other brands. The distillery began production in 2013 in a warehouse on Old School Drive.

Shares of the Sunrise, Fla.-based South Beach Spirits trade on the over-the-counter market. They were priced at less than a penny late Friday.

It’s another return flight for a national aerospace manufacturing summit that’s been held in Charleston since 2013.

Aviation Week publisher Penton and its SpeedNews Conferences division said the fourth annual event will be held in the Holy City once again May 3-4. The venue is Belmond Charleston Place.

The agenda includes a statewide update on aerospace trends in South Carolina and a tour of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner final assembly plant in North Charleston.

“The industry is watching the growth in this region of North America, arguably the fastest-growing regional concentration of aerospace and aviation companies in the world,” said Steve Townes, chairman of SC Aerospace and CEO of Greenville-based investment firm Ranger Aerospace.

The SpeedNews gathering is aimed at executives from major manufacturers and suppliers. Organizers said the sessions “are very much operational in nature, featuring speakers and panelists with tremendous hands-on manufacturing experience.”

Participating businesses include several South Carolina aerospace employers, including Boeing, GKN Aerospace, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and Toray Composites (America) Inc.