Jitney Jungle has long been a Mississippi institution. Generations have shopped at their neighborhood stores, like Jitney No. 14 on Fortification Street in Jackson made famous by literary giant Eudora Welty, or perhaps made their way to an upscale Jitney Premier offering gourmet delights and a wide variety of everyday goods.
Last week’s news that Jitney Jungle Stores of America was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to protect itself from creditors was not a surprise, considering the company’s recent financial difficulties, but it was still a shock to many. Shoppers are hoping that their store is not closed, but CEO Ron Johnson said that in the coming year, Jitney would be closing a number of locations.
This move by Jitney is yet another incident in the shakeup of the grocery marketplace. Traditional rivals, like Albertson’s and Kroger, and the entry of retailing super power, Wal-Mart, have driven the competitive nature of the business to new levels. As we watch Jitney’s attempts to reorganize its capital structure and improve operations and its financial position in the coming months, it will be interesting to see if a buyer for the troubled company emerges.
Could a rival sweep in and further shake up the Mississippi market? Perhaps. One thing, however, is certain: shopping at “the Jitney” will never again be quite the same.
Beneath the weight of bankruptcy and reorganization, the nostalgic dust of a simpler time, of a Mississippi tradition, lies buried.